Thought Speed, Mood, and the Experience of Mental Motion

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2008 Nov;3(6):461-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00091.x.

Abstract

This article presents a theoretical account relating thought speed to mood and psychological experience. Thought sequences that occur at a fast speed generally induce more positive affect than do those that occur slowly. Thought speed constitutes one aspect of mental motion. Another aspect involves thought variability, or the degree to which thoughts in a sequence either vary widely from or revolve closely around a theme. Thought sequences possessing more motion (occurring fast and varying widely) generally produce more positive affect than do sequences possessing little motion (occurring slowly and repetitively). When speed and variability oppose each other, such that one is low and the other is high, predictable psychological states also emerge. For example, whereas slow, repetitive thinking can prompt dejection, fast, repetitive thinking can prompt anxiety. This distinction is related to the fact that fast thinking involves greater actual and felt energy than slow thinking does. Effects of mental motion occur independent of the specific content of thought. Their consequences for mood and energy hold psychotherapeutic relevance.