Human beings are pretty unique in their ability to mentally detach ourselves from our surroundings and look inwards. However, according to a Paper published in Nature in July of 2014, quiet contemplation is much harder to do than it seems.
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Researchers from Harvard and the University of Virginia instructed 146 college students to sit in a frugally furnished laboratory for 15 minutes without their cell phones, books, or other distractions, able to entertain themselves with only their minds and thoughts. Most reported being unable to do so, quickly becoming bored. Even in another study in their own cozier homes, volunteers found the experiment ‘painfully dull’.
In the second phase of the experiment, researcher left the volunteers alone in a room with a device that would zap them with a mild electric shock.
Researchers discovered most males in the study were so desperate for a distraction they opted to zap themselves over sitting in silence.
Two-thirds of the men, along with 25 percent of the women chose to shock themselves rather than sit quietly
– one male volunteer pressed the zapping button 190 times.
The study’s lead author Tim Wilson, a psychologist with the University of Virgina, doesn’t know the reason why we seemly get sidetracked so easily, but he thinks our newly evolved Social Media fascination the testosterone-laced brain of males are the (entire) reason why.
“Because we’re so attuned to be alert to danger, there is something about the human mind that finds it hard to turn in on itself”
-Tim Wilson, psychologist, University of Virginia
The ability to gaze inwards may be an integral part of being human, but apparently so is our inability to be alone.
There’s 99 more stories from 2014. Check out the Best of 2014 series here.