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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958

Our boring world

Our boring world

Without this intense human concentration none of the great feats of human performance would be possible—from abstruse mathematical solutions to pole-vaulting. Our approach to the understanding of organised on-going behaviour has been in terms of this specific response of the brain to particular stimuli. But it has recently emerged that this focussing of the organism on a very small range of relevant stimuli—relevant to the task in hand that is—had curious consequences. In the end it was detrimental to efficient performance.

Boredom was the effect of doing too little for too long. The person who said "I feel terribly tired, I have done nothing to-day' was saying he was bored. It seemed that the brain needed continuous stimulus by a wide range of stimuli, a good many of which would be 'irrelevant'. The man concentrating on the radar screen saw little and did little and though he may not have become tired in the first half hour, he certainly became less efficient at his task. Dr. Scott then described the two routes, the direct and the more indirect, by which a stimulus could reach the brain. The direct route was well known. The stimulation from the retina of the eye traversing the optic nerve passed through the thalamus, along the temporal radiations to a particular part of the brain—the visual cortex, the first six cell layers at the back of the head. The second route was not a simple, direct, express route but, except for smell, a slower, scattered, more diffuse one. It took off from the main route by collaterals into a pool of neurones in the brain stream. From this pool, which was stirred into general activity by incoming stimuli, protectives went diffusely to various parts of the cortex and these carried the genera! 'alerting' stimulation not a specific signal.