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

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the still-your-mind dept.

Science 333

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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How fitting (4, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 months ago | (#47382761)

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

  Arthur Schopenhauer

Re:How fitting (4, Insightful)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about 4 months ago | (#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 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382907)

Yes but you're probably autistic. Nothing to be proud of...

Re:How fitting (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382977)

I can pace and think for hours, but I can't do that while sitting down. I think it's because my favorite activity in the world (apart from sex) is to go into the woods for hours on end, alone. Often take a canteen of water and a knife and just wander in the woods off the beaten path and think.

Last time I found a miniature junkyard, can't even see it from satellite pictures thanks to the dense canopy. Rusted cars, construction equipment and debris, random vegetation, complete quiet.

Bears? (0)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 4 months ago | (#47383281)

And a knife? Why a knife?

Re:Bears? (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#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.

Re:How fitting (5, Funny)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 4 months ago | (#47383069)

But the button? THE SHINY RED BUTTON! Calling out to you. Begging to be pressed. How long can you last? How long?!?!

Re:How fitting (4, Interesting)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 4 months ago | (#47383109)

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.

A million times THIS!

One of the things I ponder is that these people who cannot be alone with themselves place that need to never be alone as some sort of proper and good state, and that anyone who can function by themselves is the outlier, the weirdo, the one "you have to look out for." How many times to we see the story about some crackpot that shoots up a school or McDonalds, and the writer feels compelled to mention that they were a "loner". Validation for people who think that their inability to be alone protects them from that fate. Sorry, but the crackpot was mentally ill, that's why they shot the place up, not because they enjoyed solitude.

When in fact, if a person cannot be alone with their thoughts, perhaps they have the mental issue. I rather enjoy my own company,

Re:How fitting (4, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | about 4 months ago | (#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:How fitting (3, Funny)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 4 months ago | (#47383295)

So we need to install this in prisons' solitary confinement. Then, after the novelty wears off, we'll finally know.

Re:How fitting (1)

gDLL (1413289) | about 4 months ago | (#47383239)

same here

Just 15 minutes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382769)

What kind of idiots did they pick for their study?

Re:Just 15 minutes? (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 months ago | (#47382773)

What kind of idiots did they pick for their study?

Sadomasochists?

Re:Just 15 minutes? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 4 months ago | (#47382785)

probably... you'd be shocked if you know what my thoughts were when I was alone.

Or maybe not, yours probably revolve around dodgy sex too :-)

Re:Just 15 minutes? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 months ago | (#47383087)

Or maybe not, yours probably revolve around dodgy sex too :-)

That depends - are you talking style or species?

Re:Just 15 minutes? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382793)

Not Buddhists for sure

Re:Just 15 minutes? (1)

JosKarith (757063) | about 4 months ago | (#47382967)

It DOES depend on where the electrodes were attached to be fair...

Re:Just 15 minutes? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382893)

I'd be interested to know the correlation between each candidate experience and whether they are introvert or extrovert on the Myers-Briggs scale.

Re: Just 15 minutes? (5, Interesting)

kqs (1038910) | about 4 months ago | (#47383009)

In related news,scientists have discovered a correlation between "thinks that signing up for experiments is fun" and "extrovert".

Re:Just 15 minutes? (4, Interesting)

Gim Tom (716904) | about 4 months ago | (#47383303)

INTJ and 15 minutes of just thinking are no problem. Even less so since I began doing some meditation a bit over a year ago.

Re:Just 15 minutes? (1)

GoddersUK (1262110) | about 4 months ago | (#47382979)

Scientists: http://xkcd.com/242/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Just 15 minutes? (1)

Bazman (4849) | about 4 months ago | (#47383105)

A university press release, so my money is on the participants being any student wandering round campus who saw the sign offering $5 for doing experiments in the Psychology Dept. Not biased at all.

Press release says the research is coming out in Science today so can check later.

Re:Just 15 minutes? (2)

Bazman (4849) | about 4 months ago | (#47383113)

Actually the PR does say they started with college students and then found some older people to play with, so ignore me.

Re:Just 15 minutes? (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47383221)

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. ;-)

Was the button... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382787)

...jolly and candy-like?

Sad, sad times... (5, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | about 4 months ago | (#47382789)

At first I assumed that the people were stuck n a room for hours upon hours with nothing to do. Then I read...


"The period of time that Wilson and his colleagues asked participants to be alone with their thoughts ranged from six to 15 minutes. Many of the first studies involved college student participants, most of whom reported that this "thinking period" wasn't very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate. So Wilson conducted another study with participants from a broad selection of backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 to 77, and found essentially the same results.

Is it just me or is it a very poor reflection on today's society if people can not just sit and think for 15 minutes?

For the record I would have ZERO problem doing this at all... in fact I could think for hours... although having a pencil and paper to keep track of ideas and plans would be helpful.

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47382831)

I habitually retract so as to silently ruminate in a similar manner a few times a day for a period of 1/2-1 hour (not in the digestive sense, though (modulo the usual involuntary gastrointestinal processes, of course)). So far I thought everyone was doing this.

Re:Sad, sad times... (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 4 months ago | (#47382849)

Perchance, does your gastric repository conceal a recently masticated pulp of wood fibers, previously incarnated as a tome of alphabetised antonyms and synonyms?

Re:Sad, sad times... (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47382891)

Why, that may indeed be the case! Although the enzymes of the foreign learner such as myself tend to have trouble with separating sesquipedalian lexemes from the quotidian ones.

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#47382927)

"J'accuse!" quoth L4t3r4lu5, "A bibliophage is upon us!" As Jesus saith, cast him into the stygian periphery, where there shall be lachrymating and gnashing of dentitions.

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382867)

Maybe it's nothing to do with them getting bored or whatever. You're sitting in a room with nothing except a button; of course you start wondering what will happen if you push it. Will I really get a shock? Maybe that's the test, do I dare to push that button. It's not going to be a severe shock is it, they wouldn't risk that. Maybe I'll get a buzz out of it. Okay, I'm just going to push the damn button already.

Bzzzt.

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

Flavianoep (1404029) | about 4 months ago | (#47382905)

Are you enrolled on Mensa? Maybe you are in the top 2%!

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#47382955)

No. I think it's just an observation about society.

We've evolved to process stimuli and use that as the basis of our thoughts. Lack of stimuli means a lack of thoughts. I'd suggest this has always been the case.

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#47382989)

If they found it to be consistent between 18 and 77, that is not really 'today's society'.

Re:Sad, sad times... (3, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | about 4 months ago | (#47383103)

I also found this very strange I'm both extrovert and introvert, meaning I have to problem taking with groups of people, even at the center of attention sometimes. But I can be alone. I'm a climber and I've done numerous solo ascents and expeditions, the longest was 28 days alone. It's a good thing that nobody was around because of the smell, but I didn't have any problem 'being with myself'. I even think that people who can't stand 'being with themselves' are not people _I_ want to be with in the first place !!! I mean, if they can't stand themselves, why should I ?!?

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

hey! (33014) | about 4 months ago | (#47383145)

Here's what I think is the confounding factor (there always is one): I'd be wondering, "Does that button REALLY deliver a shock, or is it some kind of sham social psychology experiment prop? I bet it's a prop. If it isn't, it won't deliver THAT bad a shock. If it is, I wonder what the researchers will do when I push it?"

The confounding factor is curiosity. They'd have to do *two* sessions with the overly curious.

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383301)

Everybody had already received one shock and said they would pay to avoid being socked again. So they did know what it felt like.

Re:Sad, sad times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383157)

Sure, I can sit alone and think just fine, but if I was in a room alone with a way to (non-lethally) shock myself, I just might try it out... I mean, why not?

Re:Sad, sad times... (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 4 months ago | (#47383161)

Many of the first studies involved college student participants, most of whom reported that this "thinking period" wasn't very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate.

Don't forget that the young'uns have been indoctrinated at an early age that being by yourself is wrong. Given that the school system is a lot of people around other people, it's no surprise that people who badly need interaction with as many others as possible would be in charge.

So here you have a lot of young people sitting in a room, alone, and with - gasp - no smartphone. This goes against everything they have been taught is right and good. I have two thoughts on the matter

1. I'm surprised they got anyone to give up their smartphone for a minute. This is the generation that never looked up. I've personally witnessed dozens of students that would not give up their phones for mandatory lectures when they were not allowed to have them in an auditorium. 2. My experience with smartphone deprivation syndrome leads me to be surprised that several did not have a nervous breakdown, being deprived of their main lifeline.

Uh oh! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382791)

Another study with subjective criteria, no scientific rigor, and coming to arbitrarily conclusions based on already flawed data! I never even saw this coming!

Re:Uh oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382879)

Probably because you didn't sit and think for 15 minutes.

Mindless? (1)

CBravo (35450) | about 4 months ago | (#47382797)

Are people mindless?

Re:Mindless? (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 4 months ago | (#47382851)

Perhaps just Americans? I can't find it at the moment, but there was an old study that showed a certain result. It was assumed the whole world was like this result. But, as it turns out, it was just the US, and most of the rest of the world reacted quite differently. The point is, we don't always make good test subjects, 'cause we are actually abnormal compared to the rest of the world.

I would like to see this test done in a society with a history of Buddhism in their culture and see how the test goes.

We Aren't the World: Why Americans Make Bad Study (3, Interesting)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 4 months ago | (#47383013)

"This is just fascinating: Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics, and explain why social science studies of Westerners — and Americans in particular — don't really tell us about the human condition [psmag.com] : 'Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.'"

The Power of Now (3, Interesting)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 4 months ago | (#47382911)

Carl Jung tells in one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white people have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. He said: "They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don't know what they want. We think they are mad." ...

The Buddha taught that the root of suffering is to be found in our constant wanting and craving.

The Power of Now, p. 62 - 63.

How is this different from sensory deprivation? (2, Interesting)

Assmasher (456699) | about 4 months ago | (#47382805)

Sensory deprivation experiments, partial or full, have been going on for decades. How is this 'news' to the scientific community?

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (3, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#47382857)

Sensory deprivation experiments, partial or full, have been going on for decades. How is this 'news' to the scientific community?

Maybe because this isn't really about classic "sensory deprivation." In one phase of the experiment, they even let people sit in their own homes and just asked them to just think quietly for 6 to 15 minutes. I'd hardly call that "sensory deprivation." Most people apparently HATED the experience (even more than they hated sitting quietly in a lab setting).

I'm familiar with sensory deprivation studies, but personally I find it shocking (pardon the pun) that people are willing to self-administer painful shocks just to avoid being alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Don't you? Clearly the researchers did, given what they said in TFA. They even questioned why they should bother with the shock test, because they thought NO ONE would shock themselves. And yet nearly half did.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 4 months ago | (#47382937)

Maybe people are just overworked and don't want to waste time sitting around doing nothing. I know when I'm at home, I usually try to find something to do. Either housework, internet, reading a book, watching some TV. Sitting there idle, doing nothing isn't really all that great. I don't think I would resort to shocking myself for 6-15 minutes of boredom, but It's not really pleasant to sit and do nothing. It would be a different story if you were not at home. Think about waiting at the doctor's office. There's really not much to do, and not much you can do to speed up the wait, so it's not really a problem to just zone out and relax. There isn't that looming feeling that you could be spending your time better.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47382999)

That is perfectly fine, but being bored for ten minutes and floating in a dark, sound-absorbing tank for hours are two completely different things.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#47383019)

One does not have to be doing something external in order to be 'doing something'. I have known plenty of people who sit and design stuff in their head for instance, or work on storylines, or rehearse talks they are planning to give, etc.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 4 months ago | (#47383219)

Maybe people are just overworked and don't want to waste time sitting around doing nothing.

Perhaps you aren't getting it? Perhaps that sentence holds the very key to your problem? My days are very full, and even if I appear to be sitting around doing nothing, I am doing something.

Thinking. Planning. Calculating. All of which are performed much better when I am alone.

Anyhow, if you are overworked, a little time to yourself might help a bit. Give you time to think about why you are overworked.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 4 months ago | (#47382953)

I'm familiar with sensory deprivation studies, but personally I find it shocking (pardon the pun) that people are willing to self-administer painful shocks just to avoid being alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Don't you?

I've not read the article, but the thought that immediately occurred to me was whether there was a curiosity element involved. i.e. did people really shock themselves because they were bored, or did they shock themselves out of curiosity to see if it really did hurt as much as they were told it would?

Electric shocks aren't something that most people have experienced - if you were asked to cut yourself then you'd probably guess how much it'd hurt since most people have had cuts before, but if you're told "this button will shock you", you're in a complete unknown - most people haven't had electric shocks, and even if you had you don't know anything about the voltage, etc. they're administering so no way to gauge how much pain to expect.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | about 4 months ago | (#47383255)

They were shocked before the experiment began, and those participating responded that they would pay NOT to receive the shock again.

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 4 months ago | (#47383003)

Reduced stimulus is EXACTLY classic sensory deprivation.

Maybe you're confusing it with total sensory deprivation.

Remove external stimuli with a static environment, and leave a single available stimulus, guess what's going to happen...

Re:How is this different from sensory deprivation? (1)

c (8461) | about 4 months ago | (#47383017)

It might be interesting, not to mention somewhat obvious, to quantify how much things have changed in the last decade or two given the trend towards never being more than an arms length away from entertainment.

Buddhist meditation... (4, Interesting)

Noryungi (70322) | about 4 months ago | (#47382839)

... And just about any form of meditation revolves about emptying your mind, focusing on your breathing and discarding thoughts (after examination) rather than dwell on them.

I just read this study as an example of how people are completely disconnected from their own inner life and addicted to constant stimulation. Seriously, an electric shock instead of enjoying a little bit of peace and quiet and a chance to gather yourself? What kind of total lack of self-control is that?

Re:Buddhist meditation... (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 4 months ago | (#47382871)

Does anyone else feel like the methods or goals of "meditation" has changed over time? In an earlier, pre-industrial world meditation was forcing oneself to stay at rest without latching on to any information-bearing stimuli. Today, I personally am so addicted to the constant stimulation of high-speed internet or television, the ability to constantly jump from one thing to another, that just sitting through a long film or reading dense modernist literature requires the same amount of self-control.

Whereas the historical Buddha meditated by going out into the wilderness and sitting still for some long span of time, meditation for our descendents might be putting down the smartphone and focusing on just one thing for a while.

Re:Buddhist meditation... (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#47383039)

Well yes, of course they are going to change over time. Even if we are just going to look at historical Buddhism there are many branches and philosophies within the practice with a variety of mechanics and goals. Some forms focused on purely looking inward and ignoring stimuli, others focused on awareness of stimuli without additional thought.

Re:Buddhist meditation... (4, Informative)

moeinvt (851793) | about 4 months ago | (#47383163)

The concept of the "mind monkey" has been around for centuries in Buddhism. i.e. the mind sort of naturally jumps around like a monkey. When I took a yoga class that included meditation, the instructor said that you need to give your mind something to do. That's why you focus on your breathing. He said to let your thoughts come and go but treat them as if you were an outside observer and return your focus to your breath.
The constant flow of information we have today absolutely must affect out psychology. Maybe our minds jump around even more? I think the goal of meditation remains the same.

Re:Buddhist meditation... (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 4 months ago | (#47383249)

Today, I personally am so addicted to the constant stimulation of high-speed internet or television, the ability to constantly jump from one thing to another, that just sitting through a long film or reading dense modernist literature requires the same amount of self-control.

And how! On more than a few occasions, I've found myself with my amateur radio on, doing digital modes, while watching TV, reading a book, listening to music on youtube, and digging up some technical info on the other screen.

That's when I know I need to get out and de-stimulate.

Re:Buddhist meditation... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47383159)

I just read this study as an example of how people are completely disconnected from their own inner life and addicted to constant stimulation. Seriously, an electric shock instead of enjoying a little bit of peace and quiet and a chance to gather yourself? What kind of total lack of self-control is that?

Honestly, the first thing I thought of was people who cut themselves.

One assumes that the inner dialog/feelings are strong enough (and negative enough) that this is seen as an "anything but that".

The few people I've met who were (or had been) cutters were very unhappy people, for various different reasons. Abuse, addiction, loss, all sorts of things people don't like to remember and would rather tune out.

Meditation, or just quiet reflection, is a learned thing, and comes difficult for many people. I've been to meditation classes, and the beginners (of which I will include myself) tend to fidget, look around, check their watch, pretty much anything except sit in stillness.

I've known many many people (especially those with really short attention spans and lots of energy) who if you locked themselves in a room with nothing to do but sit quietly would probably opt for the same thing.

To those people, the idea of a period without some form of external stimulation is almost agony. Heck, ask a 3 year old to just sit quietly for 10 minutes -- very few of them can I'm betting. It's the kind of thing you have to build up over time.

I'm not entirely surprised that for many, they would rather give themselves a shock than sit quietly doing nothing. Either because they find it really distressing, utterly boring, or whatever.

Curiosity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382859)

So, people are curious and prefer experimenting with something mildly uncomfortable (and exotic) rather than being bored.

Shocking (pun).

Are we sure it's about boredom? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382869)

If they put me in a room and told me a button would give me a shock, I'd probably push it once. Not out of boredom, but curiosity.

I'd be interested to see what percentage of people pushed the button twice.

Re:Are we sure it's about boredom? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47382897)

This is likely a part of it. Also, if they pressed it multiple times, then they'd 'rather be shocked'. If they pressed it once and not again, then they've decided they'd rather not be shocked anymore.

Re:Are we sure it's about boredom? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 months ago | (#47382901)

I was going to say the same thing. That button is not the boss of me.

Are we sure it's about boredom? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382939)

According to the paper, all participants had experienced the shock before and had reported that they would pay not to experience it again. Then, during the thinking period, 67% of the men and 25% of the women shocked themselves again, so I don't think this was out of curiosity.
Fun fact: One participant administered 190 shocks to himself.

Re:Are we sure it's about boredom? (1)

qbast (1265706) | about 4 months ago | (#47382969)

During 15 minutes? Maybe his hand was twitching from a shock.

I like thinking (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 4 months ago | (#47382885)

and I like my thoughts. I just feel that I should point that out, to stop the tide of generalization.

Well that explains a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382919)

I've often wondered what the hell people were thinking when they do whatever they do. Turns out they weren't thinking at all, and that most of them hate to think.

Which explains the state of my country.

So I must make a plea to the rest of the world: when you finally conquer us, all I ask is that you exterminate me towards the end, so I can see most of these unthinking morons I've been forced to put up with all my life, sent off to the abattoir first.

Intro/extrovert (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 4 months ago | (#47382921)

67% of men and 25% of women chose to

... shock themselves.

I wonder how closely these numbers corresponded to people being introvert / extroverts, I'd expect a big correlation.

Re:Intro/extrovert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383067)

It would be useless to know if there is a correlation. Introvert/extrovert has absolutely no scientific basis. It's pretty much on the level of water/air/earth/fire personality.

Re:Intro/extrovert (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383155)

Most psychology garbage has no scientific basis.

But then again, some people are, in fact, far more social than others. Some people are shut-ins and proud. Maybe that's not scientific, but it's a fact.

Re:Intro/extrovert (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47383245)

Introverts are usually people who take their "energy/entertainment/etc" from within themselves (thinkers, inventors, creative types, etc) while extroverts are usually people who take their "energy/entertainment/etc" from the outside world (festivals, concerts, parties, being in a group doing something, etc).

I think the correlation between "sit there quietly" (with their own thoughts) and "shock themselves out of boredom" (needs external stimuli) fits the whole introvert/extrovert concept.

Two words (1)

Exitar (809068) | about 4 months ago | (#47382923)

Facebook generation.

Extroverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382931)

I wonder where the people who wanted to get zapped landed on the Meyers-Briggs E/I scale. Do extroverts actually feel discomfort when forced to be alone or keep their thoughts to themselves? I (max introvert) am shocked (heh) that some people can't stand it; maybe this is a skill that people need to practice, just as many have to practice public speaking.

Obligatory XKCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382933)

https://xkcd.com/242/

Obligatory Billy Connolly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383043)

“Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on. ”

Curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47382947)

I can think for hours and just waste away the day doing nothing with ease. However, if you put me in a room for 15 minutes with a big red button that says "I will Shock you". I will immediately start thinking about how much pain would it be? How much electricity is in the shock? What will it feel like? If I press the button, would it really give me a shock? About ten minutes into the study, I would just be too curious and I would press the button.

Re:Curious (1)

moeinvt (851793) | about 4 months ago | (#47383093)

I think that's precisely what I'd be do as well. I wouldn't be able to resist experimenting with the only electrical device in the room. At least once anyway.

I would shock.. (1)

TheGrim (833455) | about 4 months ago | (#47382961)

I would happily shock everybody I know to get 15 minutes to myself to think in quiet. Between work, (public) travel, socializing and married life, I doubt I get as much as 15 minutes a week. How folks with kids survive is a slightly off-topic mystery to me.

I LOVE begin alone with my thoughts (1)

Flammon (4726) | about 4 months ago | (#47382963)

It calms me and it clears my head. Being in a with people exhausts me.

Re:I LOVE begin alone with my thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383021)

Agreed. I prefer to be left alone with my thought process. It is the best way to solve problems.

Patience (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 4 months ago | (#47382981)

It would be interesting to see results of this over generations. My suspicion is that we're much more impatient now than we used to be say 30-50 years ago. I think there's a big difference between people who grew up w/o 24/7 entertainment (I call them the "I'm bored" generation), and someone who grew up like me...only child, spent summers at a cottage w/o access to TV, radio, etc, swam competitively several years...six days a week with my head in the water for several hrs. a day. There's certainly downside to my upbringing, not learning decent social skills at the same pace as your peers.

simple conclusion (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 4 months ago | (#47382993)

electric shock not large enough magnitude

False dilema (0)

GoddersUK (1262110) | about 4 months ago | (#47382995)

Perhaps they were pushing the button AND thinking... shocking, I know. Typically the deeper in thought I am the more likely I am to absently mindedly do things like repeatedly prod a button that produces some kind of effect. I guess it ties up the bits of my brain that control my body so they don't distract the thinking bits?

Long history of this. (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 4 months ago | (#47383011)

"What's the reason for closing down my place?"
"I'm shocked, shocked to find there's gambling going on here."
"Your winnings, sir."

Skewed Sampling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383027)

Was surprised to find their methodology not paywalled:
http://www.sciencemag.org/cont... [sciencemag.org]

Study 10: Shock Study Participants.Participants were 55 undergraduate students (31 female, 24 male) who participated for course credit or pay

I'm not speaking negatively against the study. There's actually some interesting findings above/beyond what the news media outlets are picking up on. I believe followup studies may provide insights into additional variables and how strongly they factor into the results (read: ANOVA analysis). However, take into context who the participants and the rewards they were given for the study before drawing larger conclusions.

Wow... Definitely not hunters (3, Interesting)

paradxum (67051) | about 4 months ago | (#47383029)

So I can say that without any stimulation I can sit for about a day and a half without any real problem. I get along with me just fine.

I know this rather well due to hunting deer in Wisconsin. Yes, you sit there for a little over a week with very limited interaction. You can't make noise, you can't move too much. It's you and nature. Yes it is a type of meditation when you are not seeing any deer. For me this is what happens:
First half a day: I have tons of things to think about. Little niggling problems that I haven't had the time to sit and think about. Typically things like how can I best fix this at the house, what would the optimal method of doing this in this program be.

Second half of the day: Things quiet down a bit start thinking about the Wife, kids, finances... Figuring out what to do when this one or that one does something, how to best react...etc.

Day 2 first half: Hey look... nature... that tree is kinda neat... I wonder why it grew that way...

Day2 second half: Ok, ummmm what now.... kinda bored... what time is it... oh, two minutes since I last checked.

Day 3+: Find things to be interested in... a single squirrel or bird can be hours of entertainment and the highlight of your day.

6-15 minutes!?!? Man, I haven't even finished thinking about that hot girl I saw on the way in! lol

Generalising from a culturally skewed sample (1)

nut (19435) | about 4 months ago | (#47383055)

I wonder, was that sample of people take from a single city/state/country whatever?

Generalising this to a study of, "People" might be more than a little misleading...

! news for nerds (1, Insightful)

FlynnMP3 (33498) | about 4 months ago | (#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:! news for nerds (1)

Megol (3135005) | about 4 months ago | (#47383275)

Norms and nerds? Normal people often like to think about things and can spend a lot of time doing that.

sample size too smal. (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 4 months ago | (#47383089)

Twelve of 18 men in the study gave themselves at least one electric shock during the study's 15-minute "thinking" period. By comparison, six of 24 females shocked themselves.

also, what is a "mild" shock? given the option of a small shock to leave, it's no big deal, just a momentary tingle. crank it up to 240V and see how many people press the button for a full two seconds to leave early.

This study may not apply for burocrats.. (1)

martiniturbide (1203660) | about 4 months ago | (#47383095)

I think they need to diversify the volunteers population. They will be amazed to see how many people exists that can be up to eight hours at day without doing anything :)

Sensory deprevation tanks (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 4 months ago | (#47383191)

On the other hand, there are people happily paying to go into a sensory deprevation tank.
It's all about context. If you choose the sensory deprevation, it's relaxation, if you're put into the same situation, it's boredom.

That's Shocking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383209)

(sorry)

Imagine if they were forced (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47383213)

Study seems to give weight to the already considerable evidence that solitary confinement is psychological torture.

The Wall (1)

TechNeilogy (2948399) | about 4 months ago | (#47383237)

When confronted with a complex problem -- often one involving data structures -- I'll often sit down and think it through. There does come a "wall" at about the five to fifteen minute mark where it becomes increasingly difficult to keep focus and keep thoughts ordered. But it's only by going through that wall that you get to the point where you can really clear your mind and focus on the problem. I suspect in the modern world of distractions, people haven't had enough experience of this or practice at it.

Know thyself (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 4 months ago | (#47383305)

I can do thought experiments that last for months. When I am awake, I do research and when I am asleep, I dream about the problem and find alternatives. I can stay awake for days and sleep for days. The only way to do this is to know thyself so it does not interfere with your thought process.
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