Study Finds Self-Administered Shocks Preferable to Being Alone with Thoughts

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A recent study by UVA & Harvard due to be published in the journal Science in July found that almost half the participants would rather self-administer mildly painful electric shocks than sit quietly in a room alone, with no distractions, for up to 15 minutes.

The study participants were given a sample of the shock before receiving any information, and reported they would pay to avoid being shocked, confirming it as painful rather than mild enough to be entertaining. Still, afterwards, when asked to sit in a bare room alone for 6–15 minutes, 18/42 study participants shocked themselves again by pressing a button (12/18 men, only 6/24 women). Authors of the study comment:

“…simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”

Blaise Pascal’s indictment comes to mind:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”

The implications are vast, though speculative. We don’t enjoy our own company. We’re dependent upon external fixations. We’re incapable, or averse, to introspection. Stillness recalls loneliness. Stillness recalls whatever else we try to avoid. Idleness makes us feel worthless in an age that fetishizes doing, no matter what is being done, or why.

I figure the study stands alone as worth sharing.

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Interested in many things, like consciousness, meditation & economics. Sure of nothing, like how to exist well, or play the sax (yet). More: www.MusingMind.org.

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