NEW YORK — What's on a college student's mind right now? Probably other people or a task at hand rather than sex, a new study suggests.
When researchers sampled the immediate thoughts of 39 college students and five older people through the day, they found that more than 27% of the thoughts concerned other people while only 1% concerned sex.
"This may be surprising given the large density of undergraduate students in this sample," said Eric Klinger, psychology professor at the University of Minnesota at Morris. But the results probably hold true for college students in general, Klinger said.
Men and women in the study wore beepers for an average of four days, each day in a different week. They recorded what they were thinking about at the time the beeper went off, which happened 10 to 12 times a day.
Besides other people, other top subjects for thoughts were a task at hand, which showed up in 20% of thoughts, and just looking at or listening to something, 14% of thoughts. Problem-solving appeared in 6%, self-evaluation in 3%, telling oneself what to do in 2%, and sex and anger in 1% each.
Edward Donner, a University of Chicago researcher who has studied talented high-school students with the beeper technique, said the idea that adolescents spend far more time thinking about sex probably stems from the fact that such thoughts are more emotionally charged than others. Therefore, they seem more prominent when teens are asked to recall what they've been thinking about, he said.