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Thanks to modern folklore, many of us believe that men think about sex every seven seconds, amounting to 514 sexual thoughts per hour, or 7,200 each day. If that seems high to you, you're not alone. Tom Stafford, Lecturer in Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Sheffield, UK, decided to examine the ways that scientists measure the frequency of our thoughts. In one study conducted at Ohio State University, scientists distributed handheld counters called "clickers" and instructed volunteers to record each time they had a sexual thought. On average, the men had about 19 sexual thoughts per day; the women, about 10.

What's the Big Idea?

Because volunteers in the OSU study were given instructions to record their sexual thoughts specifically, Stafford argues that the frequency of having sexual thoughts was bound to increase (due to a phenomenon called "the white bear" problem). A different study, this time conducted by Wilhelm Hoffman in Germany, found a much lower frequency of recorded sexual thoughts. When individuals were sent text messages at random times of day and simply asked to record their thoughts (without specific reference to sexuality), sex was a less frequent subject of thought than food, sleep, coffee, personal hygiene, and television programs. 

When it comes to statistical surveys that try to get inside our head, the devil is in the details.

Read more at BBC Future

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