Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shock the monkey

Fifteen minutes.

Alone in a room.

With nothing but my thoughts.

It sounds.... Effing glorious is how it sounds. That's why I meditate. Because letting those thoughts free-flow and, ultimately, spending some time with an empty, less-cluttered mind is liberating, invigorating and helps me focus on what's really important.

But, apparently, there is another point of view. And it's making men particularly look really bad.

I saw this article entitled "Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts," and I initially thought, "Another ridiculous headline that distorts what really happened." So I decided to read it -- y'know, to see what really happened.

The headline was pretty accurate.

It seems that researchers would put a person in a room and tell the person to let his or her mind wander freely. "Think about anything you want for fifteen minutes" was the command. The participants had only one option: administering an electric shock to themselves.

48 people participated in the study, split evenly by gender. Of the 24 women, six shocked themselves -- a number I initially found fairly appallingly high. "That's ridiculous. One-quarter of these women couldn't bear to be alone with their thoughts for fifteen minutes!" I said.

But then there are the men. 18 of the 24 men shocked themselves rather than be alone in a room for fifteen minutes. One guy administered 190 shocks to himself in fifteen minutes.

Go ahead. Read those last two sentences again. And wonder if we are doomed.

Are you kidding me? Is this what we have become in the modern world? It seems that, on average, males are a gender so accustomed to having others amuse us that our brains are now so boring that two-thirds of us can't stand to be alone with ourselves.

Now I realize there are a couple holes in this study. The first is the small number of participants. It could be that this sample of 24 people included a greater-than-average group of dolts on the male side of the group. OK. But how much greater than average could it be? Remember, I think there is a pretty fair point to be made that even the 25% score that the women in this study got is pretty awful. So even if the men were particularly ape like, we should still be collectively ashamed. The second potential hole is that it's possible that if the "amusement" device were changed to a different type of unpleasantness, the women's scores would get worse. Maybe electric shocks just sound more awful to most women than men?

But still.... I think there is a simpler answer: whatever the "real" numbers are, a sizable portion of either gender is so pathetically used to shutting their brains down so something else -- television, video games, whatever -- can provide all their mental stimulation that their brains have atrophied to the point of being so boring that they would rather inflict pain on themselves than be alone with whatever thoughts their stifled minds can create. And most likely, men are significantly worse than women in this regard.

That ought to terrify all of us, because besides meaning that there is a decent chance that the nearest male is a complete moron, it means that maybe we really are headed here.

Ugh. But really, go ahead. Fire up that Playstation. Or maybe you'd just like to press this button instead....

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