The poet John Berryman once wrote, “My mother told me as a boy (repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored means you have no inner resources.’ I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored.”
We’ve all been there: bored in class, bored at work, bored in stand still traffic. But why do we find boredom so unbearable? And, if we hate boredom so much, why do we still take boring jobs? This week on Hidden Brain, we try to answer these questions and more – hopefully, without boring you.
Bored at Work
The researcher Peter Ubel and his colleague, David Comerford, were curious about why people elect to do boring work. Ubel says, imagine applying to be one of those guards at the museum who stand around all day, telling visitors not to touch the paintings.
“At the time, it might sound like a wonderful job – I just stand there and do nothing, and they pay me for it,” Ubel says. “But now, imagine standing there all day long while people are walking about the museum enjoying themselves. You’re not even allowed to really talk to them much. I cannot imagine a more boring job.”
Ubel and Comerford ran an experiment to try to understand this gap, between the kind of work we think we will enjoy, and what we actually feel satisfied doing.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.