Which would you prefer: pain or boredom?
Given the choice, many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit idly in a room for 15 minutes, according to a study published today in Science.
The results are a testament to our discomfort with our own thoughts, say psychologists, and to the challenge we face when we try to rein them in.
“We lack a comfort in just being alone with our thoughts,” says Malia Mason, a psychologist at Columbia University in New York, who was not involved in the study. “We’re constantly looking to the external world for some sort of entertainment.”
It was this observation that led social psychologist Timothy Wilson at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and his team to embark on the study. Wilson and his colleagues began by asking undergraduate students to stash their mobile phones and other distractions, and to sit in a sparsely furnished room for up to 15 minutes. Afterwards, nearly half of the 409 participants said that they did not enjoy the experience.
Read the whole story: Nature