351 Thinking or Doing?

Research by Buttrick, N., Choi, H., Wilson, T. D., Oishi, S., Booker, S. M., Gilbert, D. T., . . . Wilks, D. C.  (2018).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

Would you rather read a book or sit and think? In one study, American students preferred solitary everyday activities compared to thinking for pleasure. Is this true for other countries?  Psychologist Buttrick and colleagues researched just that!

They assigned over 2500 college students in 11 countries to 12 minutes of either a “thinking” or “doing” group. Participants completed a mood index, personality measures, and questions on activities, religiosity, phone use, and socioeconomic status.  The “thinking” group were to entertain themselves using just their thoughts with the goal of having a pleasant experience, not focusing on negative or everyday activities. The “doing” group were to watch TV, use the internet, read a book or listen to music. After this “Free Time” both groups rated their enjoyment.

Results indicated consistency from each country. However, for all countries, the doing group, reported more enjoyment than the thinking group. Those who enjoyed thinking for pleasure more have a greater need for insight and reasoning, use their phone less, are open to experience, had meditation experience, and had initial positive feelings.

Find pleasure in your own thoughts and creativity as it creates those with vision, meaningfulness and innovation. Use your time wisely.


Buttrick, N., Choi, H., Wilson, T. D., Oishi, S., Booker, S. M., Gilbert, D. T., . . . Wilks, D. C.  (2018). Cros-cultural consistency and relativity in the enjoyment or thinking versus doing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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