Would you rather endure electric shocks than sit alone with your thoughts? Researchers Wilson et al. (2014) discovered that people would rather self-administer electric shocks than sit in a room for 15 minutes with no external stimulation. Sixty-seven percent of men shocked themselves at least once during the interval while only 25% of women administered at least one shock. One possible reason for this finding is that men tend to be higher in sensation seeking. When left alone with your own thoughts the mind races, and this can make people uncomfortable. Rumination of flaws or problems come to the forefront, absorbing your train of mind, and it is hard to stop these thought patterns. Another source of difficulty would be the task of entertaining yourself with only your thoughts. You have to make up a situation, but then also imagine your experience in this place. An important implication of this research is that meditation techniques can be used to address the “issue” of being alone with your thoughts. Mediation methods train people to be comfortable with being alone with their thoughts, and to enjoy it, which has been shown to have many mental health benefits.
Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., Brown, L., & Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345, 75-77. doi:10.1126/science.1250830