Monday, June 18, 2012

Being Human - The Anatomy of Boredom

Firstly, Boredom is adaptive as a transient state, but dangerous as a chronic condition.

To tell the difference between the two, psychologists designed this test, known as the Boredom Proneness Scale (BPS) and devised in 1986, as a way of distinguishing between a) those who suffer transient boredom and b) from those who suffer chronic boredom.
The following statements should be answered using a 7-point scale — from ’1′ (highly disagree), to ’4′ (neutral), to ’7 ‘(highly agree).
  1. It is easy for me to concentrate on my activities.
  2. Frequently when I am working I find myself worrying about other things.
  3. Time always seems to be passing slowly.
  4. I often find myself at “loose ends”, not knowing what to do.
  5. I am often trapped in situations where I have to do meaningless things.
  6. Having to look at someone’s home movies or travel slides bores me tremendously.
  7. I have projects in mind all the time, things to do.
  8. I find it easy to entertain myself.
  9. Many things I have to do are repetitive and monotonous.
  10. It takes more stimulation to get me going than most people.
  11. I get a kick out of most things I do.
  12. I am seldom excited about my work.
  13. In any situation I can usually find something to do or see to keep me interested.
  14. Much of the time I just sit around doing nothing.
  15. I am good at waiting patiently.
  16. I often find myself with nothing to do, time on my hands.
  17. In situations where I have to wait, such as a line I get very restless.
  18. I often wake up with a new idea.
  19. It would be very hard for me to find a job that is exciting enough.
  20. I would like more challenging things to do in life.
  21. I feel that I am working below my abilities most of the time.
  22. Many people would say that I am a creative or imaginative person.
  23. I have so many interests, I don’t have time to do everything.
  24. Among my friends, I am the one who keeps doing something the longest.
  25. Unless I am doing something exciting, even dangerous, I feel half-dead and dull.
  26. It takes a lot of change and variety to keep me really happy.
  27. It seems that the same things are on television or the movies all the time; it’s getting old.
  28. When I was young, I was often in monotonous and tiresome situations.
To find out your own proneness to boredom, add up the total of the scores you gave each question.

The average score is 99, and the average range 81-117. If you scored above 117, you become bored easily, and if you scored below 81, your boredom threshold is very high.

Researchers have found that some people have a metabolic proneness to chronic boredom, correlated with neurotransmitter imbalances and higher risks for depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, gambling, hostility, low academic performance, and more.

NB: Be cautious in assuming causality; chronic boredom can be just a symptom of these chemical imbalances, along with risk-taking and sensation-seeking, rather than a causative agent.

Meanwhile, those who suffer only transient boredom have been found to perform better in various aspects of life, including work, education, and personal autonomy.

More information
By looking at everything from body language in classical paintings to studies from some of the world’s best neuroscience labs, a book written by Peter Toohey: Boredom: A Lively History, examines boredom as an adaptive mechanism.

It goes on to paint a portrait of boredom that is at once a sweeping cultural observation across time and space and a deeply relatable, personal lens on this most unglamorous yet most universal aspect of what it means to be human.

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