Why Do We Dislike Being Alone With Our Thoughts?

When placed in a room with a machine that delivered a moderate electric shock, most people preferred to gives themselves a jolt of painful electricity than entertain their own imagination.

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A team of scientists were recently surprised to find how uncomfortable most people are with simply spending quiet time alone. In an experiment led by Timothy Wilson at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, half of 409 undergraduate college freshman reported not enjoying 15 minutes away from their smart hones, tablets, and computers. "We have this huge brain that’s full of pleasant memories and has the ability to tell stories and construct fantasies," says Wilson, who says he entertains himself as he falls asleep at night by imagining that he is a castaway on an unpopulated island. "It shouldn’t be that hard."

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In a follow up experiment, it became disturbingly clear that many people will engage in self-destructive behavior to avoid a numbing solitude. When placed in a room with a machine that delivered a moderate electric shock, most people preferred to gives themselves a jolt of painful electricity than entertain their own imagination. "Mason says that the participants would have benefited from more guidance for their thinking — perhaps if they had been instructed not only to come up with a topic to ponder, but also to map out a more structured plan of where to take their thoughts from there."

Read more at Nature

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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