Friday, December 14, 2012
Bored? Pay Attention
Research suggests that boredom is due to attention conflict. Boredom, according to John Eastwood is, “desiring of satisfying engagement but not being able to achieve that." Attention is the interaction between our senses and our environment. Eastwood argues, therefore, that attention is at the core of boredom. When a task requires little attention, the stimulus is insufficient - we aren't spending enough effort on the task, and nothing else compensates. Similarly, if there are too many stimulus', we cannot focus either.
A previous study had people read an interesting article while a TV played. If the TV was loud, people felt frustrated— not bored. If the TV was low, more people felt bored. While in both cases attention was disrupted, the cause of the disruption was unclear when the TV was low - so boredom ensued because no apparent reason for the lack of attention existed.
Another previous study examined reactions to background conversations while people engaged in 1) a task requiring little attention, 2) an uninteresting task requiring attention, and 3) an interesting task requiring attention. With task 1, an interesting background conversation decreased boredom. With task 3, people ignored the conversation. With task 2, however, boredom rose: a boring task requiring attention while competing with background conversations stunted attention.
If the conclusion is true, boredom can be fixed.