Borrrrring … ! Why We Have the Attention Span of a Goldfish


Why are we so bored? It’s a question scientists are asking as they research boredom in the 21st century. With so much to occupy our time (work, friends, devices) you’d think we’d be too busy being busy to be bored.

But according to a recent article in the Guardian, “Despite the plethora of high-intensity entertainment constantly at our disposal, we are still bored.” In fact, reports the UK newspaper, we now have an attention span of 8 seconds, that of a goldfish.

Online site Live Science highlights the work of York University researcher John Eastwood, who defines boredom as “an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.” Apparently, our brains are now so accustomed to constant stimulation that anything less is unpleasant.

Quoting Eastwood’s findings, Live Science notes, “And while seemingly benign, though little understood, boredom can be a chronic condition that may lead to issues like binge eating, drug and alcohol abuse, and gambling problems.”

In Psychology Today, Temma Ehrenfeld explains that it seems our brains are hardwired to seek pleasure and fast-paced activities that stimulate the body’s release of endorphins, the opioid peptides that our brains love.

Ehrenfeld quotes Dr. Irving Biederman, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California: “To stoke your inner opioids, keep trying new things, or delve deeper into an area you already know and love, triggering fresh insights.” Says Biederman, “The best way not to be bored is to do what you like doing. …”