So, how fast can you think? We have all heard how our brains are super computers processing tons of information at the speed of lightning. And it is true considering everything that we see, hear, feel, taste and smell that we are processing an awful lot of information. Such as, right now I can hear the keys of my key board clicking away, my guinea pig chewing and running around his cage, the whir of the computer and some random background noises from outside. I am looking at my computer screen, but I can also see out of the corner of my eye my cat watching the guinea pig eat, the clutter on my desk, light from the windows. My nose is stuffed up at the moment so I’m not smelling much. I can feel the keys of the keyboard, my chair, the desk, some muscles cramping. As for my mouth, well we’ll leave off there and say you get the point. This is a lot of processing and it can not be denied. But how fast can you think? A whole other question!
If you are like me you probably feel like a Commodore 64 running software for the Hubble Telescope. But then again…
Maybe I am not as slow as I think I am. Through all the fog and burnt out circuits when it comes down to it maybe I think pretty fast. Example number one was today driving from Greensboro to Winston-Salem, N.C. Ahead of me were two vans, one in my lane and one in the lane to the right entering the highway. Now the van on the left we will call Diane and the van on the right we will call Jack. Diane was cruising along minding her own business. Jack was entering the interstate and needed to merge left before he was forced to mess up the state of North Carolina’s nice grass shoulder. The problem was they were running right next to each other and Jack was not checking his blind spot. I was following a safe distance behind. Well, it was a safe distance assuming everyone else was doing what they were supposed to do! Now in a matter of about 3-5 seconds I thought the following:
He isn’t checking his blind spot, I need to back up more, so glad that Cee (my passenger) is sleeping because if they hit at these speeds we are likely to get swept in and she will get hurt less if she is relaxed, keep slowing down, is there anywhere for me to go, he sees her, she sees him, they’re both moving away from each other, whew glad that didn’t happen.
3 to 5 seconds, that was all it took for me to think all of that. Now this set me off to thinking about whether it is fair of me to say I am a slow thinker after all, and to look for other instances of my brain’s lightning fast reflexes!
Example number 2: A couple of weeks ago I was driving and it was raining. Just a mist by then, or maybe we were even in a pocket of dry but the road was still wet. I was driving on a road and approaching a red light. The red light however was a the end of a steep hill, maybe 45 degrees. It wasn’t a very long hill, 3 or 4 car lengths I would say. As I began to come to a stop, or rather as I tried to begin to come to a stop, the following thinking occurred:
Red light, push the brakes, push the brakes harder, I’m going to hit him, move to the turn lane there’s no one there, we’re going to end up in crossing traffic, pump the brakes, two, no three cars passing, slowing down, I’m probably giving Bernice (my passenger) a coronary, whew stopped, I need a drink.
Again this was a less than 5 second span of time and every one of those thoughts piled in just one on top of the other. And to boot, I had to act on several of them.
So, how fast do our brains work? I really don’t have any idea. I suppose we could say that in a pinch my brain can think one thought per .33 seconds. I mean if we just use really basic algebra and assume that in those two instances I was thinking as fast as was possible for me. But putting a number to this was never what I was aiming for. Really, here’s what I think. I think that I can process thoughts fast enough in a pinch to be really impressive, at least to me. Just don’t ask me where I left my cell phone.
Now for those curious about the literal answer, I have no idea. Here’s an article that ponders the question.