Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 2, pp 481–491 | Cite as

Characterizing the psychophysiological signature of boredom

  • Colleen Merrifield
  • James DanckertEmail author
Research Article


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 



This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Canada Research Chair and Discovery Grants to J. D. and NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS)—Masters and Vanier CGS awards to C. M. We would like to thank Dr. David Moscovitch for his assistance with data collection, design and analysis, and comments on earlier drafts of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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