Study: We’re So ADD That We’d Rather Hurt Ourselves Than Relax

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What’s one thing budding entrepreneurs and busy students need, but often forget, and indeed, avoid, doing? The answer: being alone with their thoughts — to just calm the hell down for a second and sit pretty.

In a recent University of Virginia study published by the journal Science, researchers found that people, especially men, would rather do something than “nothing,” even if that something is electrocuting yourself.

The author of the study, psychologist Tim Wilson, said, “Those of us who enjoy some down time to just think likely find the results of this study surprising – I certainly do – but our study participants consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time.”

Wilson conducted 11 studies in all to come to his conclusion, several of which had participants ranging in age from 18-77 sitting alone in a bare room with only their thoughts for 6-15 minutes. The participants then answered questions on how much they enjoyed the experience. Needless to say, most found the experiment unenjoyable and reported that it was difficult to concentrate on anything, even though the room was mostly empty.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Wilson upped the ante in one of his studies by asking the question “Would they rather do an unpleasant activity than no activity at all?” and giving participants an option to administer a mild electric shock to themselves by pressing a button.

The great majority of male participants, 12 of 18 (67 percent), chose to shock themselves at least one time during their 15 minutes of their “thinking” time alone. In contrast, only 6 of 24 (25 percent) females shocked themselves, leading them to conclude that men are more likely to seek “sensations” than women, and leading me to conclude that women are in fact smarter than men.

Wilson and his fellow study authors wrote, “What is striking is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”

Look, Dr. Wilson, I get where the participants are coming from — if you forced me to be in a room by myself with only my thoughts, you’d better hope those walls were padded …

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