“Just Think: The Challenges of the Disengaged Mind” (research study)

Some of you have heard Angie mention the results of this study in class recently, and we are sharing it for people who would like to learn more about the methodology and results.  Angie initially heard about the study on NPR’s All Tech Considered, and the full study is available via Science

One of the most discussed results of the study is that so many participants, when left alone in a room to entertain themselves with their thoughts, chose instead to administer an electric shock to themselves.

Many participants elected to receive negative stimulation over no stimulation—especially men: 67% of men, compared to 25% of women… Note that these results only include participants who had reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again….The gender difference is probably due to the tendency for men to be higher in sensation-seeking. But what is striking is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 min 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.  

What do you think?  If you were a participant, how would you spend the 6-15 minute period alone in a room without books, writing instruments, or electronic devices?  According to the article, “the only rules [are] that [you] should remain in [your] seats and stay awake.”

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