Participants were told [when an electric shock] was coming, how strong it would be, and how long the wait for it would be, from 1 to 27 seconds.The study shows that dread itself is painful, so much so that about a third of people (the "extreme dreaders") will trade actual physical pain for less dread-based psychological pain. There's no way I'd participate in an electric shock study, as just sitting there getting hooked up to the machine would drive me crazy, but I know I would be an extreme-extreme-dreader.
Later, participants were given choices: Would they prefer a medium jolt in 5 seconds or 27 seconds? What about a mild jolt in 20 seconds vs. a sharp one in 3 seconds?
When the voltage was identical, the volunteers almost always chose the shortest wait. But those Berns dubbed "extreme dreaders" picked the worst shock if it meant not having to wait as long.
Speaking of electric shock, I had an idea for a short short fiction story the other day, but the backstory required some kind of quirky way for a character to get electrocuted in front of his true love. I couldn't think of anything charming enough and so am stuck. Let me know if you have any ideas.