Does the idea of sitting alone in a room for 15 minutes doing absolutely nothing sound like pure bliss or unimaginable torture?
Many participants in a new study out of the University of Virginia agreed on the latter, as researchers concluded that today's society has become increasingly averse to the notion of stillness.
While this may come as no surprise, the experiment also uncovered a rather jarring fact: Some participants, when given the choice, preferred to self-administer a mild electrical shock -- of the same intensity as static electricity -- as opposed to sitting in silence for no more than 15 minutes.
"I think they just wanted to shock themselves out of boredom," University of Virginia psychology professor Timothy Wilson told Reuters. "Sometimes negative stimulation is preferable to no stimulation."
Of all participants, men were particularly antsy. Two-thirds administered at least one shock, while only a quarter of women did. One male participant even shocked himself 190 times.
All told, nearly 800 people -- including adults from a variety of backgrounds, up to age 77 -- took part in 11 total experiments.
The majority found it “difficult to use their own minds to entertain themselves, at least when asked to do it on the spot,” Wilson said. "In this modern age, with all the gadgets we have, people seem to fill up every moment with some external activity."
For instance, when asked to sit alone in their homes without a cellphone, music player, reading material or writing implements, a third of all volunteers cheated, Reuters reports, by instinctively reaching for a nearby device.
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