The Experiment That Revealed Our Fear of Solitude


Lucas A. Meyer


March 22, 2023

In 2014, Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, conducted an experiment that revealed something disturbing about human nature: we would rather inflict pain on ourselves than be alone with our thoughts.

The experiment was simple. Participants were asked to sit alone in a room for 15 minutes with no distractions, except for a button that would deliver an electric shock. The catch? The participants were told that the shock would be painful.

Shockingly, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to shock themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts. Gilbert concluded that humans have a natural aversion to solitude and will go to great lengths to avoid it.

This experiment has important implications for our modern world, where we are constantly connected to technology and rarely have a moment of solitude. We may be addicted to the constant stimulation of our devices, as they provide a welcome distraction from the discomfort of being alone with our thoughts.

But why are we so afraid of solitude? Gilbert suggests that it may be due to our evolutionary history. Humans have always lived in groups, and being alone was often a sign of danger. Our brains may be wired to seek out social interaction as a way of ensuring our survival.

However, in today’s world, being alone can be a source of creativity and self-reflection. It allows us to disconnect from the noise of the world and connect with our inner selves. The ability to be alone with our thoughts is essential for personal growth and development.

So, what can we do to overcome our fear of solitude? Gilbert suggests that we start small. Take a few minutes each day to disconnect from technology and be alone with your thoughts. Use this time to reflect on your goals, dreams, and aspirations. Embrace the discomfort of solitude and see it as an opportunity for growth.

In conclusion, Gilbert’s experiment is a powerful reminder of the importance of solitude in our lives. It is a reminder that we must learn to embrace the discomfort of being alone with our thoughts if we want to grow and thrive as individuals.