I hope this doesn't bore you..Oh it did already?


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Have you thought about why we get bored? Maybe you tried, but ended up bored in the process...

Actually, I think it's possible that there has been a decrease in boredom since social networking came around. I actually find myself mindlessly going on FB or Twitter whenever I feel like I'm about to get bored. But have you ever wondered if captive animals feel boredom?

A recent study by the University of Guelph is the first research study to empirically demonstrate boredom in confined animals. The researchers presented captive mink with stimuli ranging from appealing treats to neutral objects to undesirable things, such as leather gloves used to catch the animals.

Half of the animals in the study lived in small, bare cages. The other half lived in large "enriched" cages that were enhanced with water for wading, passageways for running, objects to chew and towers to climb. The researchers found that animals in confined, empty spaces avidly seek stimulation, which is consistent with boredom and they approached stimuli -- even frightening ones (I couldn't find exactly what the stimuli was)-- three times more quickly and investigated them for longer. They also ate more treats, even when given as much food as the minks that were having fun. When they were not being tested, mink in empty cages spent much of their waking time lying down and idle. Science Source and Picture Source
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Granted, science can't conclude if animals feel boredom in the same way as humans because it's impossible to measure those types of subjective experiences. The observations of the minks did not surprise me. It's logical that bored people and animals will be more prone to eat more and to find interest in the most insignificant stimuli. I was surprised to learn that there is not much research on boredom even though it is associated with many negative things in society such as crime, teen pregnancy, health and well-being. Mark Fenske (Guelph neuroscientist and psychology professor), said: "Being able to now study boredom in non-human animals is an important step in our efforts to understand its causes and effects and find ways to alleviate boredom-related problems across species." When I first read this quote I though "DUH! Just give animals and people things to do so they won't get bored. That will alleviate boredom." But then, I began to hear Andrew's voice and started to ask questions. Why does under-stimulation cause problems? Does the extreme boredom in animals cause them other psychological problems like depression? Does this depression cause suicide? Hmmm, maybe my next blog will be on animals and suicide. Isn't that interesting?

6 Comments

This blog really interested me because it reminded me of my dog, Remi. There have been times before where I've asked myself, wouldn't it be nice to be a dog? All you have to do is lay around. The counter-argument though, is always, wouldn't I get bored if I were a dog? After reading your comments on the study about the caged in animals I can see why Remi does what he does. I suppose that he is able to sleep all night and lay around because we offer him continuous stimulation during the day. He can go out the dog door whenever he pleases and my mom takes him on several walks a day. I'm sure that if Remi wasn't as stimulated as he was that he would be antsy and bored.
When you brought up the comment about under-stimulation being linked to depression, it reminded me of something I learned about in my high school child development class. In my class we had discussed situations where babies in orphanages who were ignored or under-stimulated, developed significant mental disorders (autism, ADD, tourettes) later in life. This was because their brains were underdeveloped. A great link, published by Health First, describes some of the most important reasons infant stimulation is necessary for proper development. Perhaps there could be a link between brain underdevelopment and depression?

This blog really interested me because it reminded me of my dog, Remi. There have been times before where I've asked myself, wouldn't it be nice to be a dog? All you have to do is lay around. The counter-argument though, is always, wouldn't I get bored if I were a dog? After reading your comments on the study about the caged in animals I can see why Remi does what he does. I suppose that he is able to sleep all night and lay around because we offer him continuous stimulation during the day. He can go out the dog door whenever he pleases and my mom takes him on several walks a day. I'm sure that if Remi wasn't as stimulated as he was that he would be antsy and bored.
When you brought up the comment about under-stimulation being linked to depression, it reminded me of something I learned about in my high school child development class. In my class we had discussed situations where babies in orphanages who were ignored or under-stimulated, developed significant mental disorders (autism, ADD, tourettes) later in life. This was because their brains were underdeveloped. A great link, published by Health First, describes some of the most important reasons infant stimulation is necessary for proper development. Perhaps there could be a link between brain underdevelopment and depression?

I am more interested in the human aspect of boredom. As time goes on and more technology evolves, even with the constant option of Facebook and twitter, the complaints of boredom continue to grow. The scary thing about all this free time is what we decide to do with it. Some construct new ideas and set goals for themselves in a positive way, while others turn to drinking and drugs to pass the time. This is where we find boredom could possibly be linked to suicidal thoughts. Not much research has been done on the subject, but I feel there could be more of a connection than we may think. My proposal for future generations is to teach children to think positively. Rather than pounding into kids’ heads, drugs are bad, drinking is bad, maybe if society emphasized positive thinking kids wouldn’t think to turn to those alternatives when they get bored. Do you think we can train boredom to cause positive thoughts?

http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/can-you-really-die-boredom

This was really great to read... The thought of animal boredom never crossed my mind before. It makes sense that confined animals would become bored, which is very similar to humans. Humans get bored when they don't have something to keep them occupied, like friends, TV, cell phones, computers, etc. I definitely agree that boredom has decreased because of new technology. I wonder why more studies have not been done on this? Also, your question about animal suicide is very interesting. I didn't think it would be possible for animals to commit suicide, but I stumbled upon an article about a dolphin, Kathy, who killed herself. A man named Richard O'Barry said that the dolphin "looked him in the eye, sank to the bottom of a steel tank, and stopped breathing." He thinks she purposely did this. Animal suicide is a very controversial topic for some. My question is how would he know if this death was intentional or not? I feel like there is no way to figure out if the animal is purposely killing itself, or just dying.

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1973486,00.html

Interesting topic! Boredom is such a drag, and it's cool to see that animals can experience it too. I decided to do some digging around to explain boredom in humans too. In my orientation for The Daily Collegian, our news editor told us that it takes 7 seconds for a person to decide if they are interested in what you have to say, which I thought was totally crazy. However, I think it's very applicable. While you're scrolling through these blogs deciding what you want to comment on, you don't waste your time on topics that you don't think will interest you...or at least I don't. I looked up the topic and found a cool blog that discussed boredom, why we experience it, and how to alleviate it. Of course, some of the proposed ideas are a little crazy (he says to genuinely like everything you ever do, which we know is just not possible), however, some ideas made sense (accepting boredom is better than fighting against it). At one point or another, we have all been seriously bogged down by boredom, and there is something we just can't do about it, but it's nice to know we are certainly not alone.

after this article, I feel bad about leaving my dog in the house by himself because he probably becomes real bored with no one in the house. This is a very interesting article concerning the neurology of animals. also, with the eating habits, it seems pretty logical that an animal would eat if they can't find anything else to do because eating does require energy and stimulates movement so that seems reasonable. Discussions like these make scientists wish certain types of animals could talk so they can say when they are bored or not and the subjective experiences would not be an issue with research.

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