IN 2014, the results of an experiment revealed that significant proportions of people preferred to push a button to give themselves a mild electric shock, rather than not press it, when left alone in a lab room to sit quietly and think.

The results of the experiment in the US, by University of Virginia social psychologist Timothy Wilson and his team, caused a bit of a stir when they were published in the journal Science.

All participants in the experiment, comprising undergraduate student volunteers and members of the community, had previously indicated they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity. Yet 67 per cent of men and 25% of women chose to press the button to administer a mild electric shock.

Professor Wilson told the BBC’s Naked Scientists programme at the time: “They seem to want to shock themselves out of boredom, so to speak.”

A surge in confidence among consumers and businesses in the wake of Boris Johnson’s decisive General Election victory has brought to mind such experiments on behaviour.

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It is difficult to see what is driving this increase in optimism. There was clearly a lot of (unjustified) boogeyman stuff from the Conservatives around Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies in the run-up to the election.

However, what the election result has actually done is enabled what the Conservatives in their own forecasts have acknowledged will be an economically damaging course of action. The result guaranteed Brexit occurred on January 31. This technical Brexit started the clock on an 11-month transition period which has the potential to bring very great uncertainty to businesses and households.

Yet it is almost as if large numbers of businesses, many of which had been fiercely opposed to Brexit, and many consumers, undoubtedly more so Leavers but perhaps also some Remain voters who are past caring, prefer a negative but definite course of action to the situation before the election.

Prior to the election, Parliament was doing a great job of holding the UK Government to account on Brexit. There was an impasse but, in rational terms, this was a good thing because the actuality of Brexit was surely worse than uncertainty over whether it would happen or over whether Boris Johnson would get his way and have a hard departure. These uncertainties could, after all, have produced more favourable outcomes.

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But Mr Johnson did get his way, and the UK is leaving the European single market.

The Brexit vote has already proved a huge drag on the UK economy, which ground to a halt in the fourth quarter of last year.

And the impact of the Tories’ planned clampdown on immigration, which they have been firming up recently, as well as the end of frictionless trade between the UK and European Union members will have a major effect on the economy and living standards in coming years and decades.

There remains a huge question over whether there will be the free-trade deal the Tories claim they want with the EU or a no-deal departure. The former would cause more dislocation in the short term. However, either way, exiting the European single market now looks inevitable, and the Conservative Government under former prime minister Theresa May itself forecast grim effects from this.

Sadly, to draw a parallel with participants in the 2014 University of Virginia experiment, it seems many people and businesses have been happy to have been shocked out of their Brexit boredom by the Boris bandwagon. They would rather have something painful than nothing happening on Brexit, it seems.

A survey published on Monday by IHS Markit showed UK households’ confidence in their finances this month hit its highest level since comparable records began 11 years ago.

There have also been signs of significant increases in business confidence in some surveys, even as the transition period ticks down and uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU remains as great as ever. It seems that some of this rise in confidence has filtered through to modest growth in January, although it looks for now as if the reported surges in optimism are not feeding through particularly strongly to activity. Such surges in confidence seem utterly unfathomable from a Scottish perspective, given the majority view on Brexit and far less enthusiasm for the Johnson Government north of the Border.

We live in strange times indeed. Last week, Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor, to be replaced by Rishi Sunak. There was even talk that the Budget might not actually happen on March 11 as planned, although this date has since been confirmed. The Budget scheduled for last autumn never happened because of the election. It is all something of a fiasco.

Meanwhile, we have social media-age advisers and forecasters causing all sorts of upheaval at senior levels of UK Government, at a time when the focus should surely be on the serious business of minimising the damage to businesses and households from Brexit. The much-vaunted big trade deal the UK wants with the US seems as far away as ever.

There seems to be only further trouble ahead. Yet the mood in Blighty is upbeat. This appears to be in some part because people and businesses would rather something was happening, even if it was negative. It will be interesting to see how long they remain enamoured with what is going on.