Being jolted by electric shock is painful, but less painful than being left alone in a room without a phone or any kind of distractions. Most men would rather experience electrical shock just to relieve the boredom. Oh the boredom! Just put someone in a room without any connections to the outside world and you’ll get this approximate result:
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. All of these participants had received a sample of the shock and reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again.
The study was done by Timothy Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Wilson doesn’t attribute this desire for distraction to a result of our perpetually connected modern life. Instead, he thinks that people are naturally adapted to engaging the outside world. We want to experience external activities.
That’s why, when asked to sit alone with our thoughts without devices, books, or music, most people would rather experience electrical shock.
During several of Wilson’s experiments, participants were asked to sit alone in an unadorned room at a laboratory with no cell phone, reading materials or writing implements, and to spend six to 15 minutes – depending on the study – entertaining themselves with their thoughts. Afterward, they answered questions about how much they enjoyed the experience and if they had difficulty concentrating, among other questions.
Most reported they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered, though nothing was competing for their attention. On average the participants did not enjoy the experience.
Luckily, you don’t have to choose getting shocked over being without your phone, but would you?