Did you know that most people would rather experience physical pain than spend time alone with their thoughts?
Conscious and oriented thinking, one of the cognitive functions, defines us as human beings.
But to what extent? Why do we find it unpleasant to be alone with our thoughts? What would we do to avoid it?
These and other questions were addressed by psychologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard in a study recently published in the journal Science.
Here is the link to the original article followed by a surprising summary :
In the research participants were required to spend between 6 and 15 minutes alone in an empty room. During this time, they should simply deal with their thoughts, without phones or other resources at hand. Then they commented on their experience, how it had been nice or complicated.
The conclusion was that most participants had difficulty concentrating and also did not enjoy the experience. To improve conditions, it was again the study but in a friendlier environment: the home of the participants.
It was even more difficult because a third of people could not avoid doing other activities! And they did not seem to enjoy the experience more than in the laboratory.
So a third phase was completed:
What would people do to avoid being alone with their thoughts?
This new group was offered the option to either hang out doing nothing, or to be “entertained” by receiving an unpleasant electric shock when they pressed a button.
In the end, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to suffer that pain over having nothing to do!
How can we have that much anguish with our thoughts?
Are we not able just to be with ourselves for a few minutes time?