Bored to Death, Defining the Underlying Causes of Boredom
By on September 28th, 2012

(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Boredom, it’s one of those words we all used as a kid whenever we had to sit for more than 2 minutes. Even as adults, boredom can creep its way into our lives. Personally, when I find myself tied to my office chair and the phone isn’t ringing, I have found myself staring at the clock in boredom. Boredom is ubiquitous however, in certain circumstances, boredom can lead to extremely negative reactions i.e. the term “bored to death”. Researchers in Canada have produced a study with the intent to “provide a definition of boredom in terms of the underlying mental processes that occur during an instance of boredom”. This seems a strange subject of study on the surface, but it really is a common problem in our world that can lead to negative consequences.

Few studies have delved into the area of trying to define boredom because it simply isn’t easy to do so. However, according to this study, it is necessary. Boredom has been associated with negative social, physical, and psychological problems. It is particularly harmful to those who suffer from depression and anxiety. It has also been proven that workers who are bored on the job are much more likely to have accidents. The researchers defined boredom as “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity”. By defining boredom, the researchers hope to build a framework that can assist in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affected by boredom.

According to a University of Guelph press release, boredom arises from failures in one of the brain’s attention networks. They also said you become bored when:

  •  you have difficulty paying attention to the internal information, such as thoughts or feelings, or outside stimuli required to take part in satisfying activity;
  • you are aware that you’re having difficulty paying attention; and
  • you blame the environment for your sorry state (“This task is boring”; “There is nothing to do”).

This really made me think for a moment about how boredom affects my day to day. Sure, we all get a little bored in the doctor’s office waiting for our name to be called, but for some, boredom can bring about feelings of worthlessness and anxiety. I believe building a framework for which others can study this subject will be beneficial for many people in the future. This study was published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science and can be viewed at

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Author: Darrin Jenkins Google Profile for Darrin Jenkins
Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Darrin Jenkins has written and can be contacted at

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