For a surprising number of people, 15 minutes alone with their thoughts appears to be a psychological ordeal so grueling they would rather give themselves an electric shock. In one of a series of experiments involving leaving people with nothing to do but think, a quarter of women and two-thirds of men left alone for a 15-minute thinking session with no phones or other distractions ended up giving themselves a small shock with a device built around a 9-volt battery, the Washington Post finds. One man—whose data was left out of the study—shocked himself 190 times. "I have no idea what was going on there," the lead researcher says. "For most people, it was more like seven times." The researchers believe men could be more prone to shock themselves because they are more "sensation-seeking."
People were given plenty of time to prepare for the thinking session, says the lead researcher, who included the shock device when he realized some people left alone without phones were desperate for distraction. "We weren’t even sure it was worth doing," he says. "I mean, no one was going to shock themselves by choice." The researchers say their work explains why many people seek out mindfulness training, New York notes. "Without such training people prefer doing to thinking, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it," they say. "The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself."