In July 2014, University of Virginia news page UVA Today, along with numerous other sources, reported on the study conducted by psychologist Timothy Wilson and his colleagues at both Harvard and University of Virginia that found many people would go so far as to give themselves a painful electric shock to avoid the discomfort of having to sit with their own thoughts for several minutes in a row.
The article summarized that the ‘period of time that Wilson and his colleagues asked participants to be alone with their thoughts ranged from six to 15 minutes. Many of the first studies involved college student participants, most of whom reported that this “thinking period” wasn’t very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate. So Wilson conducted another study with participants from a broad selection of backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 to 77, and found essentially the same results.’
The researchers took their studies further and came up with the somewhat infamous finding that many people would rather do an unpleasant activity than no activity at all. The article summarized this as follows:
‘Twelve of 18 men in the study gave themselves at least one electric shock during the study’s 15-minute “thinking” period. By comparison, six of 24 females shocked themselves. All of these participants had received a sample of the shock and reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again.’
Moral of the story? We have difficulty remaining focused by default. Imagine how the modern environment amplifies that. Attention can be trained. Check out our programs.