Exploring the relationship between boredom and sustained attention

Abstract

Boredom is a common experience, prevalent in neurological and psychiatric populations, yet its cognitive characteristics remain poorly understood. We explored the relationship between boredom proneness, sustained attention and adult symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The results showed that high boredom-prone individuals (HBP) performed poorly on measures of sustained attention and showed increased symptoms of ADHD and depression. The results also showed that HBP individuals can be characterised as either apathetic—in which the individual is unconcerned with his/her environment, or as agitated—in which the individual is motivated to engage in meaningful activities, although attempts to do so fail to satisfy. Apathetic boredom proneness was associated with attention lapses, whereas agitated boredom proneness was associated with decreased sensitivity to errors of sustained attention, and increased symptoms of adult ADHD. Our results suggest there is a complex relationship between attention and boredom proneness.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We could have chosen the 2-factor structure suggested by Ahmed (1990) or the short-form 2-factor structure used by Vodanovich et al. (2005). We chose the 5-factor structure for two reasons: first, a previous data set (Goldberg et al. 2011) had confirmed the existence of a 5-factor structure in a larger sample (n = 823). Second, when we split the group based on Ahmed's (1990) structure, no participant changed group (i.e., the individuals identified as experiencing apathetic or agitated boredom proneness by the 5-factor structure were the same individuals identified by the 2-factor structure).

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Correspondence to James Danckert.

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Malkovsky, E., Merrifield, C., Goldberg, Y. et al. Exploring the relationship between boredom and sustained attention. Exp Brain Res 221, 59–67 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-012-3147-z

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Keywords

  • Boredom
  • Sustained attention
  • ADHD
  • TBI