For their research, Fisher and her colleagues had 163 college women and 120 college men carry around golf-stroke counters to tally their thoughts. Sixty students were told to make a tally every time they thought about sex, while other subgroups tallied every time they thought about food or sleep.
The first thing researchers noticed was a huge disparity between tallies for the same categories. Several subjects only recorded one sex thought per day while one male recorded 388. This suggests that the subjects had very different understandings of what constituted a complete thought.
The study found that on average, college-aged men think about sex 18 times a day compared to 10 times for women. This works out to a little more than one sex thought each waking hour for men, and one sex thought every two hours for women. However, the real finding was that men also thought about sleep and food disproportionately more than women. This suggests that men may simply be more aware of their physical needs, or that they're just more comfortable clicking tally counters.
Fisher also found that women who indicated that they cared more about what others thought of them were less likely to report thoughts of food or sex, though they were equally as likely to tally thoughts of sleep. This suggests that women are more influenced by societal concerns when it comes to what they think about, or at least what they'll admit to thinking about.
Any study that relies on self-reporting to record something as subjective as thoughts is going to be plagued with serious flaws. The study did not factor in the intensity or duration of thoughts. And, like so many university studies, the research was limited to college students who likely had to volunteer for a random experiment to fulfill a requirement for an introductory psychology class.
What's important to take from this study is not how often men or women think about sex. Rather, it's that men report thinking about sex just as much as they report thinking about such physical concerns as food or sleep.
Read more at LiveScience.com
Follow Alfie on Twitter or Facebook and email him if interested in writing about Sex & Love.