May 19, 2007
We propose that the subjective experience of boredom is a first level safety mechanism analogous to pain, that has evolved to keep humans moving about so that they can discover and exploit their environment. This safety mechanism could itself prove fatal in siege situations, such as having to hide quietly up a tree until a predator leaves. So a second safety mechanism has evolved to place a human into a partially conscious standby mode after the human has been bored long enough that it would have moved on if it possibly could. The level of the neuroinhibitor dopamine in the human’s brain rises. This induces a subjective experience of self-absorbed well being, while rendering the human quiescent but sufficiently conscious to notice when it is safe to move..

[The modern consequence:] People can get addicted to boredom, and so lose access to a whole layer of cognitive abilities based on the use of precisely tuned feedback loops in the brain.

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