Preferring Pain Over Boredom. Why We Can’t Sit Still For More than 15minutes?

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Some University of Virginia researchers recently published a study in the journal “Science” titled “Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind”.  earlier this month. In it researchers came to the conclusion that people really don’t want to be left alone with their thoughts and sometimes prefer pain over boredom

There were 3 experiments done over 11 Studies which included

1)Several trials involving university students, who were shut in a small room with blank walls and asked to sit at a table “entertaining themselves with their own thoughts”.

After six, 12 or 15 minutes, they were asked whether the time was enjoyable and whether it was difficult to concentrate. On average, their answers were near the middle of a nine-point scale or worse.

2)To show that this was not a problem arising from the poky laboratory room, or a character flaw unique to flighty students, other experiments required a wider pool of volunteers, aged up to 77, to complete a similar test at home, sitting at a computer. Unpoliced in their own homes, many of them “cheated” by checking their phones or listening to music.

A control group was asked to find an external distraction, alone, like watching TV or browsing the internet, and they had a much better time than those left to try to daydream.

3)Then they did one test, in which nearly half the subjects gave themselves mild electric shocks during 15 minutes of quiet time to test and see how uncomfortable alone time really is for people

Sure enough, 18 of 42 people, more of them men than women, chose to give themselves at least one mild shock on the ankle when left alone for 15 minutes.

“It was kind of like a severe static shock, it was not a huge jolt, but it was a little painful,” Prof Wilson told the BBC. “They seem to want to shock themselves out of boredom, so to speak.” “There was even one man who shocked himself 190 times!”

 

The conclusions the researchers came to after  these 3 experiments

1)Participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think.
2)That they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more.
3)That many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.
4)Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.
5)The bottom line is that they felt miserable,” Prof Timothy Wilson told BBC News. “Research has shown that happiness is not only about experiencing pleasure. You need a sense of meaning and purpose – which you lack in these conditions. And when you have a task to do, you do have that sense – even if it’s a simple task.”

Other speculations about why this is are possibly are that nowadays, we enjoy any number of inexpensive and readily accessible stimuli, be they books, videos, or social media. We need never be alone, with no one to talk to and nothing to do. We may be overstimulated and are used to it.

Thinking about this it kinda makes sense. I used to watch other kids in school do silly things when bored. They would pick at a scab or their nose or chew their fingernails. Sometimes doodling silly things or even  poking themselves etc all to escape boredom. There have been other studies about sensory deprivation in which researchers also found that you will go crazy without constant stimulation. Our brains are hardwired for it. Without it our brains start shutting down.

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