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Most men would rather get an electrical shock than to think quietly

Frank Fuller, age 66, stands alone in the prison yard.
Frank Fuller, age 66, stands alone in the prison yard.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Could you sit in an unadorned room alone with no phone, no television or radio, no reading materials and no pictures hanging on the wall; nothing interesting in that room so you would be left alone with your thoughts? Apparently, it is harder than you think and may make you do things you normally wouldn’t do. In one small study, over half the men and a quarter of women administered a self-inflicted shock to themselves to avoid thinking, according to researchers at the University of Virginia on July 3.

The experiment showed that most people would rather do anything, including hurting themselves, than to be doing nothing at all and forced to think. The studies utilized were varied and procured 18 men with 24 women. One of the studies had the participants sitting in an unadorned room alone for 15 minutes. Before this particular study, they were given a mild electrical shock, after which they reported they did not like the shock and would pay to avoid receiving another. Contradictory, 12 of the 18 men and 6 of the 24 women self-inflicted an electrical shock during this experiment.

The researchers were surprised that the study participants shocked themselves after reporting they would pay [money] to avoid getting this same electrical shock. They allege the reason more of the men shocked themselves was men tend to seek “sensations” more so than women.

The query is to understand why it is so easy for individuals to spontaneously daydream or fantasize but it becomes difficult when put in a position where they are forced to think. The study purposefully removed any and all distractions for alert participants to think autonomously, dissimilar to individuals choosing to be left alone for prayer or meditation. The implications of this study may be of interest to authorities who force solitary confinements to vulnerable individuals or parents disciplining with ‘time outs.’