Join the Department of Philosophy for the Spring 2023 "Philosophy and Modern Life" series. This series is aimed at undergraduate students of any major interested in topics surrounding philosophy.
Whether we like it or not, boredom affects and permeates our social, practical, and even moral existence. It shapes our lives by demarcating the interesting and the meaningful from that which is not. And it sets us in motion insofar as its presence can give rise to a vast array of behaviors. We now know from years of studying boredom that the propensity to experience boredom (what is commonly called “boredom proneness” or “trait boredom”) is associated with a plethora of significant bodily, psychological, and social harms. But is boredom always bad? Is there a positive side to boredom? Could the experience of boredom ever be beneficial?
In this talk, I propose a theoretical account of boredom that underlines its significance and importance for our everyday lives. I argue that boredom is a useful self-regulatory mechanism that contributes to the maintenance of certain optimal levels of cognitive engagement. It signals the presence of cognitively unsatisfactory situations and motivates escape from them. As such, the experience of boredom reflects a dissatisfaction with our situation and can help us to restore the presence of satisfactory cognitive engagement