Friday, July 4, 2014

Shocking News

It's a small study (under 50 people), but a recent article in Science found that many people were uncomfortable when left alone with their thoughts for relatively short periods of time (15 minutes). And that a quarter of women and two-thirds of men preferred giving themselves small electric shocks to just sitting and thinking.

This kind of mind wandering -- which is basically the daydreaming kids are discouraged from doing, and which is being pathologized lately -- is an important skill, according to psychologist Jonathan Smallwood, who is cited in the story.

“It allows us to think about information that is not in the environment,” Smallwood said. It’s hypothesized that this allows us to act in ways that aren’t directly influenced by our environmental stimuli. “So that is probably the way,” he said, “that the human mind escapes from simple reflexive behavior.”

The ability to let the mind wander has been linked to greater working memory and increased creativity...
I can't help but wonder what age the study's subjects were, and if they were typical college student age, whether that's a confounding variable. Maybe older men, particularly, would be a bit more comfortable with their thoughts.

But still. An interesting and disturbing first finding.


Michael Leddy said...

Reminds me of something Wally says in My Dinner with AndrĂ©: “I mean, in other words, if I'm sitting at home and I have nothing to do, well, I naturally reach for a book. I mean, what would be so great about just sitting there and, uh, doing nothing? It just seems absurd.” He was ahead of his time. So many young adults now seem to have difficulty with being genuinely alone (not on a device).

Gina said...

What I find scary about this report is that daydreaming and thinking are scary to the study subjects. Daydreaming unlocks the imagination and accounts for quite a bit of "thinking outside the box" as well as creativity. If business wants innovators, they need to support daydreaming!