What would you do to AVOID thinking?

Student screaming

Hard, difficult, exhausting!  But there are lots of benefits. Or maybe not. . . Maybe there are better ways to use the 12 watts that the brain needs. What would you do to avoid thinking? How far are you prepared to go to avoid thinking?

A recent study suggests that thinking is something that we try to avoid. We even prefer to give ourselves an electric shock to spending between 6 to 15 minutes alone with nothing to do. Doing something might be better than doing nothing. Even if something is, well, a mild electric shock. Two-thirds of the men  (12 of 18) administered at least one shock.  And a quarter of the women (six of 24) gave themselves at least one shock.

The study consisted of several studies and nearly 800 people took part in the study – not all of them received the choice of an electric shock.  Some of the studies used only college students, while in some studies people from a range of backgrounds and age groups took part – from 18 -77 years of age.

Regardless of the age, most participants did not like to sit alone either in a lab room or at home. No cellphones, music, reading or writing material were allowed. Moreover, the participants were not allowed to walk around. Some groups were allowed a limited activity like listening to music and they thought that was a more positive experience.

Some of the participants were asked whether, if given $5, they would spend some of it to avoid getting shocked again. Those who said they would be willing to pay to avoid another shock were asked to think for 15 minutes, and they were given the option of giving themselves that same shock by simply pushing a button. And many of them choose to shock themselves.

Did they try to shock themselves out of boredom? The researchers suggest that:

“Research has shown that minds are difficult to control, however, and it may be particularly hard to steer our thoughts in pleasant directions and keep them there. This may be why many people seek to gain better control of their thoughts with meditation and other techniques, with clear benefits. 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. The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.”

We could interpret the results to indicate:
  • we cannot daydream
  • we do not know how to  meditate
  • we are bored
  • we are not able to do nothing
  • we hurry around the whole day
  • idem – we think that doing nothing is unproductive
  • it is an impossible to order someone to “sit down and think’ without giving them a  subject or focus
Some different conclusions and ideas that the results from this study sparked.
  • people are inclined to not think  -> how to encourage  yourself to think?
  • thinking does not exist at all   –> what do they do then in universities, thinktanks?  -> what do philosophers do the whole day? –> is the concept deliberately designed by scientists to justify that they are doing nothing -> no one can see if you are thinking or not
  • the concept of thinking is not defined and there is no general agreement on how thoughts are created
  • getting shocks is far more engaging or interesting than thinking –> it may  explain why many people escape from thinking by watching television, attend football matches, or chat.
  • people are more afraid for thinking than for getting shocks  -> if people are beginning to think, they begin to realise what miserable life they have, how many injustices there are and how little influence people have to change their social relations, their organisation, the world. . .
  • thinking is often defined as a something that requires that a person sits still, yet all the muscles in Rodin’s statue “The Thinker” is involved  -> maybe walking and talking should be allowed and even encouraged
  • what do we think of someone who tells us “think it over” or practice your thinking skills, develop thinking habits. . .

Thinking has traditionally been regarded as something that takes place in our heads. A biological approach to thinking, highlights that we are a living organism in an environment. A holistic approach to thinking means to explore how we engage in different environments and how this influence the quality of our thinking. We have written several posts about this topic. Below are a couple.

 Dance First

Dancing Statistics

Thinking Nothing? Impossible! Or maybe not

Extracting Concepts –  Change the Medium




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