Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why do we get bored?

Why do we get bored?
Why do we get bored? (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

In a new study, researchers wanted to understand the mental processes that underlie our feelings of boredom in order to create a precise definition that can be applied across a variety of theoretical frameworks.

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 behavioural 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.

Drawing from research across many areas of psychological science and neuroscience, John Eastwood of York University and colleagues at the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo 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.

The symptoms of boredom have been specified as - when we have difficulty paying attention to the internal information like thoughts or feelings or external information like environmental stimuli, required for participating in satisfying activity, we're aware of the fact that we're having difficulty paying attention and we believe that the environment is responsible for our aversive state like this task is boring" or "there is nothing to do".

The researchers are confident that integrating the disparate fields of cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, and clinical psychology will produce a more thorough understanding of boredom and attention—phenomena which are ubiquitous and intimately linked.

The study has been published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Times of India

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