Visual 07: Inside Human Thoughts

Design graphic of a human profile in black on a rose pink background. Thr profile breaks up into small squares. Design for GGD story.
Photo Credit: Semmi W. x GGD

How many thoughts do humans have a day? Ask that question as a search term, and at least 186,000,000 results will pop up on Google. According to the top result (via the Cleveland Clinic), we human beings process about 70,000 thoughts per day. That figure however, was first discussed on Twitter and is simply not true. The idea of people having between 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day is another commonly cited myth; often linked to an article published by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2005. 

The truth? In 2020, a research team out of Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada found that humans actually process up to 6,200 thoughts a day, assuming 8 hours of sleep (not including thoughts during sleep). This works out to be an average of 6.5 thoughts per minute. Using MRI brain scans, researchers studied the data of over 180 individuals. Each single and active idea was referenced as a “thought worm” by the team. Special attention was given when subjects moved to a different “thought worm” or if scans revealed brains shifting to another idea. 

Human thoughts dataviz, with a brain graphic on a nude background with GGD logo.
Photo Credit: Semmi W. x GGD

Unlike the data visual above, other incorrect figures like 60,000 thoughts or 80,000 thoughts still get referenced in self-help books, wellness guides, blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcast shows promoting positive visualization. The myriad of misinformation reveals just how much of a mystery the human mind is. When it comes to brain functionality and mental perception, there is still plenty to discover. In popular culture, not enough science-based facts stand out. The myths that do grab our attention need to be verified; even if it means supporting less exciting, but accurate brain wellness and mental health info.