Henry Curcio ’21 spent weeks boring himself to death ... on purpose.

The philosophy and math double major felt compelled to experience firsthand how boredom would affect him as part of a research project funded by the Levitt Center.

So what did he do? He spent his winter break watching an 11-hour movie that was filmed in slow-motion, listening to a 13-hour song, and watching paint dry for six hours.

Curcio was building on previous studies that show how boredom can spark creativity, generate positive emotions, and even re-establish meaning in one’s life.

Henry Curcio '21

Majors: Philosophy and Mathematics

Hometown: Southampton, N.Y.

High School: Grace Church School

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His conclusion after boring himself to death? Yes, boredom can be a productive component of a happy life. It’s similar to experiencing pain, Curcio said, which is an important signal that protects us from danger.

While we don’t like boredom, it’s also an important signal, this time keeping us aware of our own disinterest. And being aware of this helps us to think more critically about how or why we might be bored, eventually propelling us out of boredom, Curcio said.

Curcio said he is grateful for this new Levitt Center research funding, which was made available to students during winter break. He presented his research virtually to campus and is working with his adviser, John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy Marianne Janack, on finalizing a research paper.

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