Put your devices away! People underestimate how pleasant it is to sit and think, study shows

If you’re spending too much time on your smartphone, new research shows that it might actually be more enjoyable to put your device down and just “let your mind wander.”

Researchers in Japan volunteers were instructed to sit in a room without any distractions, such as a smartphone, for up to 20 minutes.

In several different scenarios, participants underestimated how nice it would be to sit and think without distractions.

Experts say the results are important in our modern age of “information overload” and constant access to distractions, including widespread forms of technology.

People consistently underestimate how much they enjoy spending time alone with their thoughts when they’re not distracted, according to a new study (file photo).

The new study was conducted by experts from Japanese institutions in collaboration with the University of Reading.

“People have an amazing ability to dive into their own thinking,” said study lead author Aya Hatano, Ph.D., from Kyoto University in Japan.


Researchers have compiled a list of the top 10 tactics to get rid of smartphone addiction, with turning off smartphone notifications taking first place.

Also included in the list is changing the phone’s display to “grayscale” to make the display look black and white, and turning off facial recognition as a screen unlock method.

The black and white screen makes smartphones “less pleasant” compared to the bright colors offered by app icons like Instagram.

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“Our research shows that people have a hard time appreciating how fun thinking can be.

“This may explain why people prefer to engage with devices and other distractions rather than taking the time to reflect and imagine in everyday life.”

The team ran a series of six experiments with 259 participants, all students from Japan or the UK.

The researchers compared people’s predictions of how much they would enjoy just sitting and thinking with their actual experiences.

In the first experiment, they asked people to predict how much they would enjoy being alone with their thoughts for 20 minutes.

They were not allowed to do anything distracting, such as reading, walking, looking at their smartphone, or taking a quick nap in the evening.

After that, the participants reported how much they enjoyed doing nothing other than just sitting in a chair.

The researchers found that people enjoyed spending time with their thoughts much more than they realized.

This is true for different variations of the experiment – whether they sit in an empty conference room or in a small dark tent with no visual stimulation, or if they sit for three or 20 minutes.

In the photo, the experimental setup is an empty conference room (left) and a small dark tent without visual stimulation (right).

In the photo, the experimental setup is an empty conference room (left) and a small dark tent without visual stimulation (right).

In another experiment, researchers compared one group of participants’ predictions about how much they would like to think with another group’s predictions about how much they would like to check the news online.

The thinking group expected to enjoy the task significantly less than the news checking group, but subsequently both groups reported similar levels of enjoyment.

The researchers emphasized that participants did not rate thinking as an extremely enjoyable task, but simply as more enjoyable than they thought. The average level of pleasure of the participants was from 3 to 4 on a 7-point scale.

The results could help people take their eyes off their smartphones and “engage positively” with themselves.

“On the bus on your way to work, you can check your phone instead of diving into your inner free-floating thoughts because you predict that thinking will be boring,” said study co-author Dr Kou Murayama of the University of Reading.

“However, if this prediction is incorrect, you are missing out on an opportunity to positively engage with yourself by not relying on such stimulation.”

Future research could explore the reasons why people underestimate how much they like to think, or what types of thinking are most enjoyable and motivating.

“Not all thinking is satisfying, and in fact some people are prone to vicious cycles of negative thinking,” Dr. Murayama said.

The results also need to be replicated in a more diverse population than in the current study, in which all participants were from Japan or the UK.

Different countries have different levels of dependence on smartphones, recently study showedso perhaps the citizens of China, for example, like to just sit and think much less than the citizens of other countries.

A new study was published today in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.


A recent study found the countries with the highest levels of smartphone addiction – and, surprisingly, the UK isn’t even in the top 10.

Researchers at McGill University used smartphone usage data between 2014 and 2020 from nearly 34,000 participants in 24 countries.

ChinaSaudi Arabia and Malaysia showed the highest rates of smartphone usage, while Germany as well as France had the lowest.

Surprisingly, the UK ranked only 16th out of 24 countries, while the US fell further behind, finishing in 18th place.

one. China (36.18)

2. Saudi Arabia (35.73)

3. Malaysia (35.43)

four. Brazil (32)

5. South Korea (31.62)

6. Iran (31.52)

7. Canada (31.11)

eight. Turkey (30.92)

9. Egypt (29.54)

ten. Nepal (29.41)

eleven. Italy (28.82)

12. Australia (28.61)

13. Israel (28.29)

fourteen. Serbia (28.16)

fifteen. Japan (27.71)

16. United Kingdom (27.69)

17. India (27.2)

eighteen. United States (26.68)

19. Romania (25.52)

twenty. Nigeria (24.73)

21. Belgium (24.24)

22. Switzerland (23.45)

23. France (20.29)

24. Germany (18.44)