Thanksgiving Break has just ended which is typically a time for getting together with family on Thursday and shopping the malls with family or friends the next day. Many of us probably spent time with high school friends we have not seen in months or reunited with our beloved pets. Since it was a week long, there was plenty of free time to do whatever we wanted. This also might have lead to some of us feeling bored and trying to entertain ourselves in some manner. Are we aware when we are bored? How do we decide what to do when we are in a state of boredom? This reminded me of my high school Science teacher who used some tricks to help his daughters to be creative. He told us that he limited which toys his daughters could play with at a given time, because he wanted them to be creative with activities to do with those toys. He felt that if they could have any toy whenever they wanted, they would be less creative and enjoy the excessive resources of entertainment without using their brains. I wonder if this is true for all of us… does being bored force us to be more creative?
First, I needed to define what “boredom” really is scientifically. An article written by professors at York University did that and their findings can be summarized in a few main points. They found that boredom occurs when humans have an inability to focus on our surroundings. When this occurs, we are self-aware about our own boredom and we recognize that we cannot keep focus. So when we were saying that we were bored over break, it really means that our current surroundings are not holding our attention. I wonder if that causes us to find new surroundings or objects that will hold our attention since we know that we are not focusing on our current environment. From this piece of research, we now have the knowledge that boredom happens, because of the environment that one is in.
My hypothesis is that low-stimulation environments cause people to be more creative. This would be my alternative hypothesis as well. The null hypothesis is that low-stimulation environments do not have an effect on people’s creativity.
Luckily, two studies were executed to test this idea. The first study required a group to read literature that was considered boring then perform a creative task. The control group did not have a specific “boring” activity to do prior to doing creative work. One issue is if a participant is actually intrigued by the literature and does not become bored by it. This was improved for the second study which offered varying types of boring activities in addition to a control group. Still, with these differences the results were the same for both studies. The specific numbers from the studies are not given, but it is stated that the findings suggest that participating in boring activities leads to an increase in creativity.In addition to that, boring reading activities lead to more creativity than partaking in boring writing activities. An issue is that the first study had 80 participants and the latter had 90 so the sample sizes could have been higher. Some confounding variables could be variation in what activities people think are boring, different levels of creativity, etc. I think that it is also suspicious that the article is not more specific about the findings of the two studies. What we can take away from this is that boredom, which is typically seen negatively, could potentially have some benefits after all.