James Danckert on the (important) role of boredom in our lives

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Boredom has been characterized as a crisis of meaning, a failure of attention, and a call to action. And while the last few decades have seen an expansion of boredom research, Dr. James Danckert of Waterloo’s Department of Psychology says we are still left with the question of what makes any given boredom episode meaningless, disengaged, or a prompt to act.

“Boredom signals that we have strayed from an ideal state of cognitive engagement. And the key to understanding boredom lies in its role in keeping us cognitively engaged.”

According to Danckert, an expert in boredom research and the co-author of the book Out of my Skull: The Psychology of Boredom, the proliferation of models of what boredom means underscores a challenge in defining the experience. “What’s missing from these accounts is an explanation of the function of boredom — How is boredom transformed into action?”

In a recent TEDxCambridge talk, Danckert shares his research insights on how adaptive approaches to boredom can help us lead fuller lives.

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