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Science Idle

Study: People Would Rather Be Shocked Than Be Alone With Their Thoughts 333

Posted by samzenpus
from the still-your-mind dept.
sciencehabit writes "How much do we hate being alone with our own thoughts? Enough to give ourselves an electric shock. In a new study, researchers recruited hundreds of people and made them sit in an empty room and just think for about 15 minutes. About half of the volunteers hated the experience. In a separate experiment, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to push a button and shock themselves rather than just sit there quietly and think. One of the study authors suggests that the results may be due to boredom and the trouble that we have controlling our thoughts. "I think [our] mind is built to engage in the world," he says. "So when we don't give it anything to focus on, it's kind of hard to know what to do."
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Study: People Would Rather Be Shocked Than Be Alone With Their Thoughts

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  • How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday July 04, 2014 @08:08AM (#47382761)

    "The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom"

      Arthur Schopenhauer

  • Re:How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JMJimmy (2036122) on Friday July 04, 2014 @08:23AM (#47382837)

    Every time I read these types of studies I am baffled. I could sit in an empty room for days without issue. Just cause you're alone doesn't mean you're without stimuli - I actually enjoy sitting pondering problems and get annoyed when someone comes and distracts me from it.

  • Re:How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Friday July 04, 2014 @08:51AM (#47382983)
    Extroverts are 'people', introverts are abnormal. When studies discover behavior closely tied to extroverted personalty types it is considered something about 'people' in general, while studies discovering behaviors related to introverts tend to be labeled as being about introverts.

    It is the classic normal/default/otherness problem, in the same basic category as when you draw a simple stick figure people think it is male unless you add something gender marking, male unless otherwise specified. In this case, extrovert unless otherwise specified.
  • ! news for nerds (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlynnMP3 (33498) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:03AM (#47383057)

    Hahaha! Funny article is funny. A large percentage of the readership of this site have no problem just sitting still and thinking. For quite a few of them, it's their job. Norms, or people not in STEM, think differently and choose not to actively use their brains.

    Who woulda thunk? The few non-STEM people that read the article will think it's sort of weird. The majority of people that it's about won't even see it. Nerds innately know this crap anyway, but are too busy going about their business to care.

  • Re:How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oneandoneis2 (777721) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:15AM (#47383107) Homepage

    Oblig. [] :)

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:36AM (#47383221) Homepage

    Actually the PR does say they started with college students and then found some older people to play with

    I was told once by someone doing their Masters in Psychology that the vast majority of research starts on university students, exactly as you initially described, and then moves onto a broader pool of people to eliminate that as a variable.

    But undergraduate university students are probably the most studied group on the planet from a psychology perspective, precisely because for a little extra credit, or a small amount of cash, they're a readily available pool of subjects.

    Which is odd, because you'd think by now someone would understand them. ;-)

  • Re:How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:38AM (#47383233)

    I could sit in an empty room for days without issue.

    So could I. But if I was sat in an empty room with a button that gave me a shock, I'd definitely press it - not because I couldn't handle the boredom, but just to see what it's like. I'm not sure this study really measures what it intends to.

  • Re:Bears? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:54AM (#47383297)
    Well, can't speak for the original poster, but where there's woods, there's wood. Knives can do interesting things with wood.
  • Re:How fitting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alvinrod (889928) on Friday July 04, 2014 @10:12AM (#47383389)
    If the majority of people are extroverted, how would it not be considered normal or typical behavior? The problem comes from assuming that anyone who isn't normal must have something horribly wrong with them. The number of people who are normal in most every regard must be incredibly small, which by definition also means that they're not normal.

    Either some attribute is the typical state for a person, so our brains will assume it's true unless given sufficient reason to believe otherwise, or there's another likely explanation for the behavior. In the case of the stick figure, assuming that it's drawn as plainly as possible, it better matches the mind's pattern for men due to a lack of hair and a lack of breasts. If we lived in a culture where women had flat chests and shaved their heads and men wore their hair long, most people would probably default to calling the stick figure a woman.

    Our brains are fairly good at recognizing patterns and will often try to find them in places where none exist. Even if the number of introverts and extroverts are the same, it could be simple confirmation bias as you're far more likely to engage with extroverts while introverts will keep more to themselves.
  • Re:How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcello_dl (667940) on Friday July 04, 2014 @10:19AM (#47383425) Homepage Journal

    Before MTV, cellphones and in general the sensory overload of contemporary urban life, extroverts could stay with themselves for 15 minutes too.

    Introverts are to be considered uncool, not because they are more or less abnormal (the media hype, and therefore sanction, people with degenerate, inane, self-harming behavior: get a teenager's top 20 chart and listen to the lyrics).
    They are uncool because they think too much for themselves. The system improperly known as society want people who respond to emotions, not thinkers.

  • Re:How fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday July 04, 2014 @12:57PM (#47384199)

    I don't think it's a true statement that introverts recede into the mists unless lasso'd with the titanium chains of social discourse. We are human beings and are motivated by the usual impulses, just not the desire to necessarily be engaged with other people all the time or to do our critical thinking as part of a hive mind. Introverts do a) need money to finance our seclusion (in my personal experience, a proper hermitage in the modern world costs an incredible amount of money, I am still saving up), b) the desire to find a mate and c) the need to acquire goods to live and be happy.

    In the quest for these it is frequently put upon the innocent introvert to venture forth into the unholy wilderness of academia, shopping malls or simply city streets. Presented with the option to get a quick $50 for a survey or perhaps simply being intrigued by scientific inquiry, an introvert may willingly participate. Introversion is not the same as social anxiety, we are often known to voluntarily be in the presence of other human beings. It's simply that we prefer not to be, and perform best when left to ourselves.

"What if" is a trademark of Hewlett Packard, so stop using it in your sentences without permission, or risk being sued.