Would you rather sit and think or get shocked? You’d be surprised

Jul 5, 2014

By Will Dunham

 

So you say all you want to do is to take a few minutes to sit down and think without anyone or anything bugging you? Maybe that is true. But you might be in the minority.

A U.S. study published on Thursday showed that most volunteers who were asked to spend no more than 15 minutes alone in a room doing nothing but sitting and thinking found the task onerous.

In fact, some of the volunteers, men in particular, in one of the 11 experiments led by University of Virginia researchers preferred to administer mild electrical shocks to themselves rather than sit and do nothing.

“Many people find it difficult to use their own minds to entertain themselves, at least when asked to do it on the spot,” said University of Virginia psychology professor Timothy Wilson, who led the study appearing in the journal Science. “In this modern age, with all the gadgets we have, people seem to fill up every moment with some external activity.”

Nearly 800 people took part in the study. Some experiments involved only college students. The researchers then broadened the study to include adults who live in the same area.

They went to a church and farmer’s market to recruit people from a variety of backgrounds and ages up to 77. And they got the same results: most participants regardless of age or gender did not like to be idle and alone with their thoughts.

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