Hate sitting alone amid wandering thoughts and have a constant itch to do something? Given the choice, many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit alone in a room for just 15 minutes, a new study reveals.

To understand why this happens, social psychologist Timothy Wilson from University of Virginia in Charlottesville and his team asked undergraduate students to sit in a sparsely furnished room for up to 15 minutes. Nearly half of the 409 participants said they did not enjoy the experience.

Next, participants were given an electric shock that three-quarters of them said they would pay not to experience again. Yet when they were placed in the room to sit alone with their thoughts, 67 per cent of male participants and 25 per cent of female subjects were so eager to find something to do that they gave themselves shocks with a small device that was provided.

“The discomfort comes from a lack of mental control: that it is difficult to tell our minds to stay on one topic and keep it there for a long time,” Wilson noted in a paper published in the journal Science.

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