The Washington PostThe Washington Post

Boredom is a warning sign. Here’s what it’s telling you

By Richard Sima

22 Sep 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Boredom is a feeling human's do their best to avoid. Yet, boredom can be a positive thing, it makes us take action and redirect ourselves. This article explains why.

In one famous experiment, people were asked to sit quietly for 15 minutes in a room with nothing but their own thoughts. They also had the option to hit a button and give themselves an electric shock.

Getting physically shocked is unpleasant, but many people preferred it to the emotional discomfort of boredom. Out of 42 participants, nearly half opted to press the button at least once, even though they had experienced the shock earlier in the study and reported they would pay money to avoid experiencing it again. (One male outlier opted to shock himself 190 times.)

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