Scientists have identified boredom as "an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity", which arises from failures in one of the brain's attention networks.
Psychological scientist John Eastwood of York University, Canada and colleagues at the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo wanted to understand the mental processes that underlie feelings of boredom in order to create a precise definition of it that can be applied across a variety of theoretical frameworks.
The team found that people get bored when they have difficulty paying attention to the internal information like thoughts or feelings or external information such as environmental stimuli required for participating in satisfying activity.
Boredom is also experienced by people when they are aware of the fact that they're having difficulty paying attention or when people believe that the environment is responsible for their aversive state.
Integrating the disparate fields of cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, and clinical psychology will produce a more thorough understanding of boredom and attention - phenomena which are ubiquitous and intimately linked, researchers said in a statement.
The study was published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.