I'm a doctoral candidate in Social Psychology at the University of Virginia, where I study boredom, interest, and why some thoughts are more engaging than others. This summer I will be starting as a post-doc at Ohio State University. Much of my research has been on the conditions under which people enjoy or do not enjoy their own thoughts (e.g., Westgate, Wilson, & Gilbert, Emotion, 2017; Wilson, Reinhardt, Westgate, Gilbert, Ellerbeck, Hahn, Brown, & Shaked, Science, 2014). I have extended that work to the larger question of why people become bored, developing a new model of boredom that explains what boredom is, why we experience it, and what happens when we do. According to this Meaning and Attentional Components (MAC) model of boredom, we feel bored when we can't successfully engage our attention in meaningful activities (Westgate & Wilson, in press, Psychological Review). We may not enjoy it, but boredom gives us important feedback about our lives. In short, it tells us whether we want to and are able to focus on what we're doing.
I work with Tim Wilson on the pleasures and challenges of being alone with one's thoughts, and validated my MAC model of boredom and cognitive engagement as part of my dissertation work. I also work with Brian Nosek and Shige Oishi on psychological "richness" and implicit social cognition and culture, and with Jerry Clore on the role of social cognition in emotion.
I spend my free time looking at fish in my many fresh and saltwater aquariums and -- when I'm lucky -- in the ocean while scuba diving. Luckily, research suggests watching fish is good for you !