What is a thought? That’s a problem. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to define a thought as a unit of meaning that includes enough context to be something its agent can discriminate: this not that. A thought means something specific to the thinker; it “brings to mind” both a specific object and a world, without having to articulate every last thing.
Oh, yeah, like that’s clear. But it’s a beginning.
Ok, let’s say a thought requires some linguistic element, if only to be in a form that can be sustained in working memory long enough for its content to be worked on – say, extended, contemplated, beheld, dismissed, or observed (or, at least immediately recalled, ala echoic or really on top-of-it working memory).
A syllable is about one-third second. A thought could be a syllable – e.g., “Wow” – but I warrant that’s an exception to the rule.
The problem with sentences is that we rarely know what they mean without knowing what came before and what came after. Not to mention all the background information. Plus all the non-sentence-like stuff going on. Bigger worlds and smaller worlds. All are being spoken to. Or “thought” to.
So, what is a thought and how would you count thoughts?
Let’s pretend a thought is a cognitive object that can be beheld within the “psychological present”, which per Daniel Kahneman is about 3 seconds. But 1…2….3 is hardly enough to contain most of our thoughts.
A wordless deep breath may contain a thought.