New research from the University of Calgary's brain and creativity lab shows 87 per cent of all students at the school have a decreased, or severally decreased, use of their imagination.
Lead researcher Aaron Telshi said the data proves more young people need to use their brains more regularly and for longer periods.
"The study shows that for the majority of their waking hours, students are completely devoid of any higher brain function," Telshi said.
Telshi's team presented subjects with simple puzzles and hypothetical scenarios, which forced them to conceptualize abstract ideas and objects.
"The students were unable to match shapes with corresponding slots," Telshi explained. "Incredibly, their completion speed increased 3,000 per cent when we introduced a computer with Internet access."
The study compared students from several international post-secondaries and found, on average, most Canadian campuses ranked low in the creative use of the mind.
Third-year U of C communications major Jeremy Twenge agreed with the results, citing a heavy workload and his lack of need to imagine in day-to-day life.
"I used to think about things when I was younger," Twenge said. "But there's so much porn on the Internet, I don't really need to anymore. Seems like a waste."
The study comes after federal guidelines for mental activity were lowered to make it easier for many to meet recognized activity targets.
"Young people just aren't interested in imagining any more," said Canada's minister of the mindscape Jordania Ferris. "There's so many competing entertainment media that, let's face it, outpace the meager budget most people possess for independent creation."
Some students, like imagineer club president Brenda Shrumfield, hold out hope that peers will rediscover their ability to dream.
"Just this morning I came up with the idea of a dog driving a car," said Shrumfield. "But then I realized I was looking at a cereal box with a picture of a dog driving a car on it. It's important to just keep trying I think."
Health Canada recommends citizens start with easy activities, such as three to five minutes a day of imagining favourite sit-com characters from different programs interacting with each other, before moving on to any kind of self-contained narrative.
"We urge people not to stress themselves," said Ferris. "Everyone wants that well-toned imagination for the summer, but it doesn't happen overnight."