Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 2, pp 481–491

Characterizing the psychophysiological signature of boredom

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00221-013-3755-2

Cite this article as:
Merrifield, C. & Danckert, J. Exp Brain Res (2014) 232: 481. doi:10.1007/s00221-013-3755-2


Research on the experience and expression of boredom is underdeveloped. The purpose of the present study was to explore the psychophysiological signature of the subjective experience of boredom. Healthy undergraduates (n = 72) viewed previously validated and standardized video clips to induce boredom, sadness, and a neutral affective state, while their heart rate (HR), skin conductance levels (SCL), and cortisol levels were measured. Boredom yielded dynamic psychophysiological responses that differed from the other emotional states. Of particular interest, the physiological signature of boredom relative to sadness was characterized by rising HR, decreased SCL, and increased cortisol levels. This pattern of results suggests that boredom may be associated with both increased arousal and difficulties with sustained attention. These findings may help to resolve divergent conceptualizations of boredom in the extant literature and, ultimately, to enhance our understanding and treatment of clinical syndromes in which self-reported boredom is a prominent symptom.


Boredom Depression Heart rate Skin conductance levels Attention 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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