Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Living in Our Imaginations

How do Americans spend their leisure time? The answer might surprise you. The most common voluntary activity is not eating, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs. It is not socializing with friends, participating in sports, or relaxing with the family. While people sometimes describe sex as their most pleasurable act, time-management studies find that the average American adult devotes just four minutes per day to sex. ... Our main leisure activity is, by a long shot, participating in experiences that we know are not real. When we are free to do whatever we want, we retreat to the imagination—to worlds created by others, as with books, movies, video games, and television (over four hours a day for the average American), or to worlds we ourselves create, as when daydreaming and fantasizing. While citizens of other countries might watch less television, studies in England and the rest of Europe find a similar obsession with the unreal.
Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at Yale University and the author of the forthcoming book, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like looks at why it is we spend so much time in our imaginations, including reading novels. This fascinating piece is based on one of the chapters of the book.

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