People prefer electric shocks to being left alone with their own thoughts

I came across this academic study that focuses on how difficult it is for people to sit alone with their own thoughts. Here is the most interesting part (I put together small paragraphs from all over the article)

Ninety- five percent of American adults reported that they did at least one leisure activity in the past 24 hours, such as watching television, socializing, or reading for pleasure, but 83% reported they spent no time whatsoever “relaxing or thinking”.

Most participants reported that it was difficult to concentrate (57.5% responded at or above the midpoint or the point scale) and that their mind wandered (89% responded at or above the midpoint or the scale), even though there was nothing competing for their attention.

There was no evidence that enjoyment of the thinking period was related to participants’ age, education, income or the frequency with which they used smart phones or social media.

In part 1 of the study, participants rated the pleasantness of several positive stimuli (e.g attractive photos) and negative stimuli (e.g an electric shock). Many participants elected to receive negative stimulation over no stimulation, especially men: 67% of men gave themselves at least one shock during the thinking period compared to 25% of women. The gender difference is probably due to the tendency for men to be higher in sensation-seeking. But what is striking is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 min 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.

Source: Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind

This is simultaneously interesting, embarrassing and frightening. I have one of those disengaged minds. Just sitting alone with my own thoughts is so challenging. I tried to do it multiple times and always found myself looking at my phone. More embarrassingly, at the time of the “transgression”, I was aware of that tendency and had no other distraction competing for my thoughts, yet I still couldn’t keep myself engaged. Yoga has been a greatly positive experience, but whatever progress I may have made is apparently insufficient with regard to being able to sit alone with my own thoughts.

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