Boredom

Boredom indicates a state of disinterest in life in the moment.

Everyone, at one time or another, feels bored. Boredom is not easily tolerated or understood. Children report boredom frequently because they have not yet learned to entertain themselves. Infants and toddlers rarely experience boredom. Infants spend large blocks of time asleep and much of their waking time feeding. Toddlers have a nearly unlimited curiosity to explore a world that is still new to them. Preschool and school-aged children, however, are fickle in their attentions. These children may be engrossed in an activity one minute and, seconds later, lose interest and complain of boredom.

Psychological scientist John Eastwood of York University (Ontario, Canada) and colleagues at the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo researched the mental processes that distinguish feelings of boredom in order to create a precise definition. Their article, which brings together existing research on attention and boredom, was published in the September 2012 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Psychological science and neuroscience yield a new definition. Eastwood and colleagues defined boredom as an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity. Boredom in adults is often a sign of a lack of intellectual stimulation or emotional engagement. People who repeatedly complain of boredom might unconsciously suffer from depression. Boredom can be confused with anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure). Depressed people are often unable to find pleasure or meaning in activities and people. They withdraw from formerly interesting activities or loved ones, appear apathetic, and complain of boredom.

See also Affect ; Alienation ; Coping behavior ; Depression .

Resources

BOOKS

Clark, David L., et al. The Brain and Behavior: An Introduction to Behavioral Neuroanatomy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Coulter, Jeff, and W. W. Sharrock. Brain, Mind, and Human Behavior in Contemporary Cognitive Science: Critical Assessments of the Philosophy of Psychology. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007.

Deaux, Kay, and Mark Snyder. The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Hutchison, Elizabeth D. Essentials of Human Behavior: Integrating Person, Environment, and the Life Course. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013.

Tiliopoulos, Niko, and Simon Boag. Personality and Individual Differences: Theory, Assessment, and Application. New York: Nova Science, 2011.

Toohey, Peter. Boredom: A Lively History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

PERIODICALS

Eastwood, John D., et al. “The Unengaged Mind: Defining Boredom in Terms of Attention.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 7, no. 5, (September 2012): 482–95.

Anderson, Joan Wester. “Overcoming Life's Little Doldrums.” Current Health 2 19, no. 6 (February 1993): 4.