'I'm bored!'—Research on attention sheds light on the unengaged mind
(Medical Xpress)—You're waiting in the reception area of your doctor's office. The magazines are uninteresting. The pictures on the wall are dull. The second hand on the wall clock moves so excruciatingly slowly that you're sure it must be broken. You feel depleted and irritated about being stuck in this seemingly endless moment. You want to be engaged by something—anything—when a thought, so familiar from childhood, comes to mind: "I'm bored!"
Although boredom is often seen as a trivial and temporary discomfort that can be alleviated by a simple change in circumstances, it can also be a chronic and pervasive stressor that can have significant consequences for health and well-being.
Boredom at work may cause serious accidents when safety depends on continuous vigilance, as in medical monitoring or long-haul truck driving. On a behavioral level, boredom has been linked with problems with impulse control, leading to overeating and binge eating, drug and alcohol abuse, and problem gambling. Boredom has even been associated with mortality, lending grim weight to the popular phrase "bored to death."
Although it's clear that boredom can be a serious problem, the scientific study of boredom remains an obscure niche of research, and boredom itself is still poorly understood. Even though it's a common experience, boredom hasn't been clearly defined within the scientific community.
Psychological scientist John Eastwood of York University (Ontario, Canada) and colleagues at the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo wanted to understand the mental processes that underlie our feelings of boredom in order to create a precise definition of boredom that can be applied across a variety of theoretical frameworks. Their new article, which brings together existing research on attention and boredom, is published in the September 2012 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Drawing from research across many areas of psychological science and neuroscience, Eastwood and colleagues define boredom as "an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity," which arises from failures in one of the brain's attention networks.
Specifically, we're bored when:
- We have difficulty paying attention to the internal information (e.g., thoughts or feelings) or external information (e.g., environmental stimuli) required for participating in satisfying activity
- We're aware of the fact that we're having difficulty paying attention
- We believe that the environment is responsible for our aversive state (e.g., "this task is boring," "there is nothing to do").
Armed with a precise and broadly applicable definition of boredom that gets at the underlying mental processes, the authors identify important next steps in research on boredom. Eastwood and his colleagues hope to help in the discovery and development of new strategies that ease the problems of boredom sufferers and address the potential dangers of cognitive errors that are often associated with boredom.
Journal reference: Perspectives on Psychological Science
Provided by Association for Psychological Science
- Bored? This is anything but tedious May 25, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Bored to death? It's possible Feb 09, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Overcoming boredom Sep 01, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Seven-year itch? Boredom can hurt a marriage Apr 23, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Survey: Cellphones a lifeline, boredom staller Aug 16, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
There is a link between use of anabolic-androgenic steroids and reduced mental health later in life. This is the main conclusion of a new study on elite male strength athletes that researchers from the University of Gothenburg ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Bullying because of perceived sexual orientation is prevalent among school-aged youths, according to a study led by Donald Patrick, professor of health services at the UW School of Public ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with the most severe and dangerous form of chronic anorexia are more likely to make a significant improvement towards recovery and stay in therapy if traditional psychological treatments are re-focused ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Patients with treatment-resistant major depression saw dramatic improvement in their illness after treatment with ketamine, an anesthetic, according to the largest ketamine clinical trial to-date led by researchers from the ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 19, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (6) | 1 |
New research from the University of Southampton has shown that blind and visually impaired people have the potential to use echolocation, similar to that used by bats and dolphins, to determine the location of an object.
51 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
While the effects of acute stroke have been widely studied, brain damage during the subacute phase of stroke has been a neglected area of research. Now, a new study by the University of South Florida reports that within a ...
34 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A new report suggests that improved health care and significant reductions in drug costs might be attained by breaking up the age-old relationship between physicians and drug company representatives who promote the newest, ...
36 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Food microbiology laboratories continue to submit false negative results and false positive results on a routine basis. A retrospective study of nearly 40,000 proficiency test results over the past 14 years, presented today ...
22 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Posterior fossa subdural hematoma (PFSDH) is a serious and rare condition in newborns, generally occurring after difficult deliveries. But with appropriate treatment, there's an excellent chance of good long-term outcomes ...
26 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
National guidelines recommend that at-risk women be screened for elevated cholesterol levels to reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. But who is 'at risk?' The results of a study by investigators ...
35 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0