Bored in the USA

Perhaps the world's second-worst crime is boredom; the first is being a bore.  Cecil Beaton

Boredom, ennui, apathy, doldrums, world-weariness, whatever word we use to describe it, the feeling is all too familiar for everyone.   While not that easy to define (the most common definition for boredom is "the state  of being bored"), dealing with boredom remains a constant challenge for most of us.    It's probably not surprising that boredom has also become an active research topic over the past decade.   Psychologists studying boredom have proposed various theories to explain why people get bored and the role that it plays in how we think and behave.   For example, neuroscientists have suggested that boredom occurs due to low levels of arousal or stimulation which can motivate us to search for novel experiences.    In a real sense, escaping from boredom underlies much of our need for entertainment, whether in seeing the latest movie or television show. following new fads, or searching online for new memes to enjoy.  

Most research into boredom focuses on three main issues:  

  • who is most susceptible to boredom?  This focuses on the the concept of boredom as a personality trait.   Psychometric tests have even been developed to measure "trait" boredom including the Boredom Susceptibility Scale and the Boredom Proneness Scale
  • what are the situational factors that can contribute to boredom?   Engaging in tasks that are monotonous or unstimulating seems to one prime cause of boredom though, again, some people seem more susceptible than others
  • what are the consequences of boredom?  While most theores about boredom suggest that it serves a useful function, boredom tends to be regarded as something that needs to be avoided.  Negative consequences of boredom can include depression, substance abuse, absenteeism from work or school, reduced job satisfaction and a general sense that life has no meaning.  

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.



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