Pain versus mind

Many web sources are reporting this news item concerning students in a psychology experiment at the University of Virginia. In a version from ScienceAlert of Australia/New Zealand, the article is titled and subtitled: “People prefer electric shocks to quality alone time: Scientists reveal that being left alone with your thoughts is deeply unpleasant.” The Washington Post story title is: “Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts.” The original announcement in EurekaAlert reports:

Most people are just not comfortable in their own heads, according to a new psychological investigation led by the University of Virginia.

The investigation found that most would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts, said the researchers, whose findings will be published July 4 in the journal Science.

In a series of 11 studies, U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.

URL: EurekaAlert –
ScienceAlert –
Washington Post –