Charlotte Burn is investigating the biology of boredom states across animal species. Persistent boredom is distressing and damaging in humans, but barely studied in animals. However, as with bored humans, animals in barren conditions seek stimulation: even unpleasant stimulation, like excessively bright light, or food they know makes them sick. Research on bored humans and sensory-deprived animals suggests that boredom has biological roots and functions likely to be common across vertebrate species. To enable further research, we must measure signs of boredom in animals, which will include drowsiness combined with restlessness and efforts to increase stimulation and wakefulness. Also, as time 'drags' when we are bored, animals in monotonous situations may show behaviour indicating that they too perceive that time passes more slowly. Being able to biologically research boredom will help us develop evidence-based solutions to combat its damaging long-term effects in humans and animals.
Alice Dancer’s PhD is exploring whether cognitive stimulation reduces behavioural and neural measures of boredom in laboratory ferrets.
Maria Diez-Leon is investigating the effects of early environments on brain function and behavioural (including abnormal repetitive behaviours) and physiological responses to stress in adults.
Fiona Dale is conducting a PhD investigating the development and risk factors for separation anxiety in dogs with Rachel Casey and Charlotte Burn, funded by DogsTrust