Sometimes being bored can seem like the worst thing in the world.
In fact, I’ve previously written about research which shows that people (especially men), would rather electrocute themselves than be bored.
But a new piece of research indicates that being bored may have an unexpected benefit:
Being bored can make you more creative.
A study of 170 volunteers by Cadman and Mann set out to test whether engaging in a boring activity could stimulate people to be more creative.
The theory was that being bored would make people more likely to daydream, which could spark creative performance.
In the first study, 80 participants (40 bored and 40 controls) were asked to copy phone numbers from a phone directory for 15 minutes (yawn!) to stimulate boredom, and then asked to perform a divergent thinking task (think of alternate uses for cups). Those who were bored thought of significantly more and more creative ideas than the control group.
In the second study of 90 participants, in addition to the boring writing task, a further boring task was introduced: just reading the phone numbers for 15 minutes (snore!).
Both of these studies showed an increase in creativity after a boring activity compared to a control group.
This could well be because the participants began to daydream during the activity, or it could be that the boring activities relaxed the brain into a slower state. Either way, they provided evidence that being bored increases your creativity afterwards.
So if you are ever stuck on a particularly challenging problem, maybe engage in a completely different, mundane task to take your mind off it. The answer might then come to you.
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