I had to share this excerpt from a NYTimes article on boredom I read this morning:
While attending lectures on dementia, the doctors, Kenneth Rockwood, David B. Hogan and Christopher J. Patterson, kept track of the number of attendees who nodded off during the talks. They found that in an hourlong lecture attended by about 100 doctors, an average of 16 audience members nodded off. “We chose this method because counting is scientific,” the authors wrote in their seminal 2004 article in The Canadian Medical Association Journal. (emphasis added)
I feel like I should try to slip that sentence into every scientific paper I write from now on.
The article itself is fairly interesting, though it doesn’t discuss much in the way of the actual science of boredom – it just recounts some older findings from the psychology literature that creative thought seems to come when you’re bored, and it cites Dr. Mintum at Washington University in St. Louis concerning the neuroimaging of boredom. The article claims that the brain consumes 5% less energy during a resting state than during routine tasks, which actually surprises me – that seems like a huge number. Though the article doesn’t state which imaging methodology was used here (I’d guess it would have to be PET), 5% would be an enormous signal change for fMRI – the numbers I typically see reported are in tenths or hundedths of a percentage point. I couldn’t find the original article, but I’ll add an update if I come across it.