boredom

Boredom and creativity, or not

Recent research has suggested that boredom is something you need to go through before you can be creative. Yet everywhere I look people are doing everything they can to avoid it. Last week I was managing a series of presentations at the University.
The presenters were all new and inexperienced so I wanted to make sure that the audience was paying attention to them. I told everyone to shut their laptops and focus on the presenter. Everyone duly shut their laptops, except for one student who had to be forcibly assisted.
When the presentations got underway, I noticed about 1/3 of the students were actually now using their cell phones under the desk. Other students were showing withdrawal symptoms. It would seem that almost everyone nowadays seeks to be constantly stimulated. They appeared to be almost terrified of having one moment of boredom.

Research into boredom

In one recent study researchers asked their subject to do something either boring or something interesting. Then they asked the subjects to do something creative. One group copied numbers out of the telephone book and the other group watched a television show. Both groups were then asked to think up something creative to do with cups. The boredom group came up with more and better creative things to do with the cups.

In a second test subjects came up with more answers to an associative word test after they'd been forced to watch a boring screensaver for a while.
It has been known for centuries that being bored leads to daydreaming. And daydreaming leads to creativity. So how it works is not a mystery.

The scientist are now asking themselves that if everyone is overstimulated and never gets bored, what will happen to the nation's creativity?

For therapists the question is quite different. Most of our clients keep themselves constantly busy, have the TV on all the time, or listen to headphones in bed in order to avoid what happens to them when they're not stimulated. In that case what they get is fears and anxieties coming out. They don't get creativity, they get frightened.

Perhaps psychologists will begin to look into that?

David Mason

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