Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageOp-Ed: The science of boredom, explained

By Paul Wallis     Jul 9, 2019 in Health
Pullman - Is your brain as inactive and irritated as it seems when you’re bored? Does the tedium have you climbing the walls, as it makes you feel? Well, yes, to a point, but your brain is more active in other ways, too.
A recent study indicates that American adults are bored for about 131 days of the year. It’s one of those areas in which going for a personal best isn’t all that inspiring.
Boredom IS a real problem. The sheer level of personal dissatisfaction alone can be a major issue for anyone. Consider all the things it’s possible to be bored with, from a job to a personal rut, and you’ve got just about any possible type of human activity in the firing line.
Boredom is by definition counterproductive. It’s often a perceived waste of personal time, talent and energy, and can be truly stressful. It also implies a lack of opportunity, another source of stress.
So somebody decided to do a study of what happens in the brain when people are bored. One of the findings, perhaps predictably, but usefully, is that boredom actually inspires creativity, by encouraging “daydreaming”, or as others would put it a little less derisively, exercising the right to do actual thinking in one’s own space.
The Washington State University Study
Washington State University has been doing some research into the physiology of boredom and the findings really are quite interesting. (Note: The published findings are available here at the Psychophysiology online library web page. You need to ask for access to read the full study.)
The findings are pretty interesting in terms of brain physiology and look for proactive ways to manage boredom. The researchers state boredome does represent a real issue for mental health, and has been linked to both anxiety and depression, major mental health conditions.
Some of the findings were truly definitive:
1. Brain hardwiring isn’t the source of problems. It’s the reaction to boredom which makes the difference. Poor reactions were more likely to lead to mental health issues.
2. Research subjects were given a repetitive, truly boring task to map brain responses on an EEG.
3. The left brain wakes up and searches for stimulation.
4. The right brain activates in response to negative reactions to boredom.
5. On a behavioural basis, the bias to left or right brain response was indicative. A risk of coping problems was seen for those whose right brain was activated more than the left.
The left brain/right brain dichotomy is a tale of opposites. The left brain is said to be the logical analytical side, the right is the creative, emotional side. From that perspective, it’s not too hard to understand that the right brain may be loathing the boredom, while the left brain looks for an escape. The WSU findings also prove to rather effectively that the creative side of the brain does respond to boredom as shown by other studies.
The big importance of this study is that it effectively proves that the brain does respond to boredom. Whether it responds well is the key to managing the issues.
Future studies by WSU are planned and will focus on exploring new options and finding solutions to the many coping issues.
Major upsides of this line of research
The fact is that about 1 in 4 human beings are affected by mental health issues at any given time. This is a pandemic of misery for so many people it fully qualifies as a major health issue.
Stress is always one of the co-conspirators in any mental health issue, and boredom causes stress in so many ways. Just think of how many ways you can be bored in 131 days…And what it means to you in terms of stress.
These findings do indicate clear physiological effects which may soon be used for diagnosis and treatment of stress. The WSU study has already shown important working physiological, and to some extent psychological, range of findings. The fact that responses can be clearly documented and defined as possible risks using core diagnostic tools like an EEG is critical to practical applications.
Just think- Being bored to tears, or in some cases, literally to death, (thanks so much, stress factories) may now have a working treatment. It’ll be a blessing for the modern world if it can be cured.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Boredom, Boredome and mental health, Washington State University, EEG study boredom, Assistant professor Sammy Perone
More news from
Latest News
Top News