A Jolt of Reality: Students Choose Electric Shocks Over Quiet Reflection

What’s so scary about your own thoughts? This University of Virginia study reveals the shocking lengths people will go to avoid them!

Michael Boyd
3 min readSep 13


Close-up of a volt meter’s needle, indicating a surge in electrical current.
Much like our aversion to solitude, the needle’s swing reveals an unexpected charge beneath the surface, echoing the shocking findings of Wilson’s study. (Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash)

Every now and then, a piece of information emerges that challenges our understanding of the human condition, making us reevaluate the very core of who we are. This time, it isn’t from a grand revelation or a mystical experience, but from a research study, nestled in the hallowed halls of the University of Virginia by a scholar named Timothy Wilson.

The crux of the research? People, it appears, would prefer a jolt of electric shock to the seemingly simple act of being alone with their thoughts.

At first glance, I was tempted to dismiss it. Surely, solitude couldn’t be that intolerable? But as I delved deeper into the study, the implications became hard to ignore.

Solitude vs. Shock: The Experiment

The experiment Wilson and his team set up was fairly straightforward. Participants were asked to sit alone in a room, free from the distractions of the outside world. No smartphones, no music, no entertainment. Just them and their thoughts for a mere 15 minutes.

Then, the twist: a button, connected to a device that delivered a mild electric shock.

The results? Astoundingly, 67% of men and 25% of women opted to press the button, subjecting themselves to the unpleasant sensation rather than just sitting in silent introspection.

A Reflection on Modern Existence

In an era where our screens beckon us with relentless persistence, offering a cornucopia of distractions, this study isn’t as shocking (pun unintended) as it initially seems. We’ve cultivated an incessantly noisy culture. Quiet moments, devoid of notification dings and digital interludes, have become a rarity.

It begs the question: What is it about our thoughts that we find so aversive? Why is solitude, a condition revered by thinkers and philosophers through the ages, now something we’d rather electrocute ourselves to avoid?



Michael Boyd

Co-owner of Battle Born Grooming Co., sharing my insights on entrepreneurship, personal growth, and fighting against Goliaths. https://battleborngrooming.com