In a recent paper in The Cambridge Journal of Education, Teresa Belton and Esther Priyadharshini of East Anglia University in England reviewed decades of research and theory on boredom, and concluded that it’s time that boredom “be recognized as a legitimate human emotion that can be central to learning and creativity.”
“When the external and internal conditions are right, boredom offers a person the opportunity for a constructive response,” Dr. Belton… wrote in an e-mail message.
Some evidence for this can be seen in semiconscious behaviors, like doodling during a dull class, braiding strands of hair, folding notebook paper into odd shapes. Daydreaming too can be a kind of constructive self-entertainment, psychologists say, especially if the mind is turning over a problem. In experiments in the 1970s, psychiatrists showed that participants completing word-association tasks quickly tired of the job once obvious answers were given; granted more time, they began trying much more creative solutions, as if the boredom “had the power to exert pressure on individuals to stretch their inventive capacity,” Dr. Belton said.
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