Five shades of boredom

Anyone with children over the age of three and under 30 will know only too well the drawn out phrase, “I’m boo-oo-red!”, usually closely followed by, “This is boring!” This is not to say that only younger people experience boredom, it’s just that they are more ready to declare it; board members who openly declare themselves “bored!” by the AGM usually have a short shelf-life but not saying it doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. Boredom is a part of the human experience and as such it is fodder for psychologists who have already identified four distinct types of boredom. Now the boredom palette has been extended to include a fifth shade according to a new study.

The study took place over two weeks and involved subjects completing digital questionnaires throughout the course of each day via their smartphone. The surveys examined what activities they were engaging in and how they felt about them.

As a result of work like this these researchers had previously been able to identify four separate types of boredom. First there is “indifferent boredom” that is characterised by feeling relaxed and withdrawn. Then there is “calibrating boredom” where the person feels uncertain and is receptive to distraction. After that comes “searching boredom” where the individual is restless and actively pursuing change or distraction, and finally there is “reactant boredom” where the person is motivated to leave a situation and look for specific alternative activities.

As a result of this new study the researchers have identified a fifth type of boredom; “apathetic boredom”. This is a particularly unpleasant and virulent form of boredom that has elements of helplessness and depression. It is highly unpleasant but associated with low levels of arousal and motivation.

Disturbingly around 36 per cent of the high school age students in the study reported feeling this apathetic boredom.

Another interesting finding was that any given person tended to feel one type of boredom only. So rather than feeling all types of boredom throughout a day, you will tend to feel one type. Given our hunger for hearing about ourselves and for finding what “type” we are, perhaps you might find your daily “Boroscope” being published online soon.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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