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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2012 Sep;7(5):482-95. doi: 10.1177/1745691612456044.

The Unengaged Mind: Defining Boredom in Terms of Attention.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, York University johneast@yorku.ca.
2
Department of Psychology, York University Department of Psychology, University of Guelph Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo.
3
Department of Psychology, University of Guelph.
4
Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo.

Abstract

Our central goal is to provide a definition of boredom in terms of the underlying mental processes that occur during an instance of boredom. Through the synthesis of psychodynamic, existential, arousal, and cognitive theories of boredom, we argue that boredom is universally conceptualized as "the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity." We propose to map this conceptualization onto underlying mental processes. Specifically, we propose that boredom be defined in terms of attention. That is, boredom is the aversive state that occurs when we (a) are not able to successfully engage attention with internal (e.g., thoughts or feelings) or external (e.g., environmental stimuli) information required for participating in satisfying activity, (b) are focused on the fact that we are not able to engage attention and participate in satisfying activity, and (c) attribute the cause of our aversive state to the environment. We believe that our definition of boredom fully accounts for the phenomenal experience of boredom, brings existing theories of boredom into dialogue with one another, and suggests specific directions for future research on boredom and attention.

KEYWORDS:

attention; boredom; emotion

PMID:
26168505
DOI:
10.1177/1745691612456044

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