"The SF approach: an awareness that things could have been different, that this is one of many possible worlds, that if you came to this world from some other planet, this would be a science fiction world."
In Dune, the Bene Gesserit tested ordinary people to find the humans, the ones with sufficient emotional intelligence to rise above a merely animal existence. One test was by pain and observation.
The box slowly induced the feelings equivalent to heat sufficient to burn his hand to ash. Pain was the axis of the test; the Bene Gesserit wanted to see which way he turned.
(Pain box from Denis Villeneuve's 2020 film Dune)
In Heretics of Dune, also by Frank Herbert, this item is called an agony box.
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