Last week, a chart from an academic study went viral on Twitter confirming that dudes do indeed rock. The chart showed the number of men versus women who voluntarily self-administered an electric shock while sitting alone for 15 minutes. Sixty-seven percent of men decided, “Fuck it, I’m just going to shock myself for literally no reason whatsoever except to ease the burden of being alone with my thoughts.” Twenty-five percent of women made the same choice. Can I get a hell yeah?
It turns out, the data the chart utilized was published in 2014, but its research might be more relevant than ever. Featured in Science, researchers at the University of Virginia’s Department of Psychology shared their findings after conducting 11 studies on how people respond to time spent alone with nothing to do. In one of these studies, participants were asked to rate the pleasantness of several positive and negative stimuli, an electric shock being an example of the latter. They were then asked how much they would pay to not be shocked again if they were hypothetically given $5. Those who stated they would pay not to be shocked again were then told simply to “entertain themselves with their thoughts,” but were also given the option of electrocuting themselves whenever they wanted. Sixty-seven percent of men decided to go for the shock, despite saying previously they would pay to avoid it. (One guy even shocked himself 190 times, but was considered an outlier and therefore excluded from the data.)
As the research states, it’s possible that men are simply more likely to seek sensation than women. It’s also possible that, while alone with nothing to do, men are more likely to create an unpleasant environment for themselves by ruminating on their flaws or mistakes. For that reason, an electric shock is a welcome distraction from one’s negative self-talk.
Considering this last year of isolation and boredom most of us have endured, this research probably doesn’t bode well for our collective mental state. Who knows what kind of self-sabotage we’ve been inflicting? But hey, maybe those electric shocks were actually more fun than everyone let on in that first round. I probably would have gone for the extra shocks, myself. Anything to feel alive!