Friday, November 28, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Study: Just thinking by yourself isn’t much fun

By
From page A1 | July 04, 2014 |

NEW YORK — Wouldn’t you love to escape this busy world and just spend some time alone with your thoughts? Maybe not, says a study of volunteers who actually tried it.

Some even started giving themselves electric shocks as the minutes ticked by.

“I think many of them were trying to shock themselves out of boredom,” said psychologist Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia. “It’s just a sign of how difficult (being alone with one’s thoughts) can be for people…. This isn’t something that most people find really enjoyable.”

At least, that’s the case for people not trained in techniques like meditation, Wilson and co-authors say in a paper released Thursday by the journal Science.

In a series of experiments, college students left their cellphones and other distractions behind and spent six to 15 minutes alone in a sparsely furnished room on campus. They were told to entertain themselves just with their thoughts, or imagine doing one of three pleasant activities like hiking.

The experience was not exactly heaven. On a 9-point scale of enjoyment, their average rating was about in the middle. And about half the participants gave it a rating at the half-way mark or below.

In nonscientific terms, the overall verdict was: Eh.

Doing it at home proved no more enjoyable. When the researchers had 61 people from the community try it at home, about half admitted to cheating by doing things like checking their cell phones, writing or doodling. Their overall results were about the same as with the students.

The most startling experiment involved the electric shock. Students first shocked themselves in the ankle and rated how unpleasant that was. They were asked to imagine being given $5 and to specify how much they would pay to avoid another shock, or to receive one. Then they were told that if they wanted to, they could shock themselves again during their time alone, which ran 15 minutes.

Of the 55 participants, 42 said they would pay to avoid feeling the shock again. But once they were left alone, even some of these volunteers chose to shock themselves anyway; 12 of 18 men and six of 24 women.

Wilson was surprised by the overall results. When the experimenters began the study, “it seemed that it shouldn’t be that hard for people to use (their brains) to entertain themselves,” he said. “All of us have pleasant memories we can call upon, we can construct stories and fantasies.”

Maybe the problem is that while pleasant thoughts pop up naturally while we’re doing something like driving or exercising, it’s hard to activate them on demand, he said.

“I think it’s an issue of mental control. The mind is built to engage in the world and when you give it nothing to engage it, it’s hard to keep one train of thought going for very long.”

In any case, the result is probably not a consequence of modern-day life, Wilson said, because even in medieval and ancient Roman times, there were complaints that people don’t take enough time to contemplate.

Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who didn’t participate in the work, said he found the results “surprising and in some ways a disappointing statement about human nature.”

Most people have interesting things to think about “so I don’t understand why they find themselves such bad company,” Schooler said.

“This is innovative new research, which means it’s the beginning of our understanding of this phenomenon, and not the end,” Schooler said.

___

Online:

Journal Science: http://www.sciencemag.org

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • JoshJuly 04, 2014 - 9:31 am

    How pathetic is that. And people gripe about entertainers being overpaid. Your fault society, your fault.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Solano Turkey Trot draws 2,600 to college

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Il Fiorello schedules olive milling day

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Early Black Friday shoppers take advantage of deals

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Eagle Scout project adds floating docks at Rockville Park

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
.

US / World

‘Guardian angel,’ community join to give man home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US celebrates Thanksgiving with parades, turkey

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Tons of marijuana seized in Central California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

 
Gorilla death prompts San Francisco Zoo changes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Health agents still unpaid after plan’s rollout

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
California Burger King employee finds $100,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Researchers discover ‘pre-cancers’ in blood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
At 1 month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Families asked to host visitors for pope’s US trip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
35 arrested in Oakland after protest march

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

A glance at Ferguson: Then, now and the future

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
For some, location of Brown’s hands irrelevant

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Ferguson gives thanks after a quiet night

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Colorado mastodon bones show ancient warmer Earth

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

Ebola aid dogged by coordination lags in Guinea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Taliban attack rocks upscale Kabul district

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Queen of crime writing PD James dies aged 94

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Small quake rattles California wine country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Living

Today in History: Nov. 28, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Nov. 28, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Movies just another course on Thanksgiving

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Poor health is no excuse for not behaving like a caring person

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

Horoscope for Nov. 28, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

Week in preview: Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Singer John Mayer among ‘Late Late Show’ subs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Review: ‘Horrible Bosses 2′ doesn’t work

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B2

 
Review: ‘Madagascar’ spin-off hatches family fun

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prison theater transforms Colombian inmates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Reading Harry Potter gives clues to brain activity

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Talking songs with She & Him

By Kim Durbin | From Page: B3

Entertainment calendar Nov. 28, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

 
Cosby testimony describes accuser’s spiked story

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Sports

College notebook: Many happy returns for Arizona’s Bondurant

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Sherman’s big night leads Seattle past 49ers again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment | Gallery

Rookie quarterback Carr is Raiders’ silver lining

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
US cities urged to keep price tags down for 2024

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Eagles roll over Cowboys 33-10 for NFC East lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
5 investigated in FIFA WCup bid corruption probe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Johnson shines in Detroit’s 34-17 win over Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
No. 9 UCLA must overcome Stanford for Pac-12 title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Signups for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

 
.

Business

Kia’s ‘Soulful’ first electric car

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Automakers aim to drive away car computer hackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

3 Reasons holiday shoppers will spend cautiously

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
OPEC keeps oil output on hold despite low prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

 
Deanna L. Haines

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Esther Ringler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9