Boredom attracts interest

Sometimes throughout an individual’s day, they feel bored and cannot fully comprehend the origin of their feelings. With a new research initiative being undertaken by several Ontario university professors, that may be about to change.

Three university professors are banding together to study the science behind the occurrence of boredom.

University of Waterloo professor Daniel Smilek joined forces with lead researcher John Eastwood at York University and  Mark Fenske, co-author of The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success,  an associate professor in neuroscience at the University of Guelph.

After a lengthy discussion of their interest in the matter of boredom and the logistics behind the materials, the three researchers pooled their research funds and collaborated to hire post-doctoral student Alexandra Frischen to help with the beginning stages of their work.

“Boredom is something that is universally experienced, but we know very little of,” Fenske said.

“Compare that with something like fear. We’ve done a lot of work on fear and how we perceive threat. If you think about western societies, how often you feel that experience compared to how often you experience boredom, I’m willing to bet that more people are experiencing boredom than they do fear, yet we know very little of it.”

Boredom, which has been defined as feeling weary, because one is unoccupied or displays a lack of interest in one’s current activity, has proved to be a complex emotion to describe to another individual, as there are a lot of different aspects to dullness, according to Fenske.

The topic of boredom is not as simple or straightforward as one may assume. Boredom, in fact, can be associated with a plethora of serious mental health issues.

These problems include depression as well as attention deficit disorder (ADD), among others. To understand the concept of boredom, the concept of concentration must also be well understood and investigated.

Different circuits of the human brain allow individuals to give out attention in different ways. Attention can cause a person to better focus, as well as distract the person from the activities which they are engaged in.

The intention of this study is to attain many distinctive tools to examine monotony in further detail. Understanding how attention is related, Fenske maintains, is a critical tool to discovering the root cause of boredom among people.

According to Fenske, very little work and earlier scientific investigations had previously been done in the topic of boredom, which was initially a surprise to the three professors.

With their research, they hope to inspire a lot more future research on the subject.

“By having this new framework we can start moving forward. We can start looking at attention, measuring attention, manipulating attention within the context of boredom,” Fenske shared.

“It allows us to move forward thinking about new ways to manipulate boredom itself.”