Friday, June 19, 2015


I missed this one when The Boston Globe published it last year, and frankly, I rather wish it hadn’t come to my attention.

It seems that way too many people prefer to get an electric shock to break up the experience of sitting alone in a room for 15 minutes with nothing but their thoughts. In fact, way too many people are ready to push the button to administer the shock to themselves!

Research done at the University of Virginia confirms this very troubling unwillingness to spend a few minutes in solitude, thinking, without a TV, phone or iPad.

In the study, some subjects were shown some beautiful photos and some received a “mildly painful electric shock” on the ankle. All subjects were asked if they would spend $5 to avoid getting such a shock. Finally, each of them was placed alone in a room for 15 minutes, with no distractions or devices except for a button that could be pressed to deliver an electric shock.

Here’s the mystery: two-thirds of the men who had said they’d pay to avoid the shock nevertheless pressed the button at least once during the 15 minutes of “just me and my thoughts.”  About one-quarter of the women did the same.

One person pressed the button 190 times. That’s about once every five seconds.

Is thinking painful?

Is solitude terrifying?

Can there be human happiness without a smartphone?

Somebody explain this to me, please.

Put the phone down, and go in another room and try thinking about this for 15 minutes.


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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