Researchers identify new type of boredom

'Apathetic boredom' resembles learned helplessness or depression.

Written by PTI | Berlin | Published: November 19, 2013 3:05 pm

Scientists studying emotion and motivation have identified a new type of boredom to describe this emotion.

Researchers identified the new type of tedium as ‘apathetic boredom’,an especially unpleasant form of the emotion that resembles learned helplessness or depression.

The study is among the first to quantifiably investigate different types of boredom. The study builds on preliminary research done by Dr Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz and colleague Anne Frenzel in 2006 in which they differentiated between four types of boredom according to the levels of arousal (ranging from calm to fidgety) and how positive or negative boredom is experienced (so-called valence). These were indifferent boredom (relaxed,withdrawn,indifferent),calibrating boredom (uncertain,receptive to change/distraction),searching boredom (restless,active pursuit of change/distraction) and reactant boredom (high reactant,motivated to leave a situation for specific alternatives).

The researchers have now identified another boredom subtype,namely apathetic boredom that resembles learned helplessness or depression. It is associated with low arousal levels and high levels of aversion.

Goetz and researchers conducted two real-time experience studies over two weeks among 63 German university students and 80 German high school learners.

Participants had to complete digital questionnaires through the course of a day on a Personal Digital Assistant device about their activities and experiences.

Because of the assumed link between boredom and depression,the research group found it alarming that apathetic boredom was reported relatively frequently by 36 per cent of the high school students sampled.

The findings showed that the five boredom types do not just depend on the intensity of the boredom being felt,but mainly on the real-life situation in which it is experienced.

Another interesting realisation is that people do not just randomly experience the different boredom types over time,but that they tend to experience one type.

“We therefore speculate that experiencing specific boredom types might,to some degree,be due to personality-specific dispositions,” said Goetz.

The study has been published in Springer’s journal Motivation and Emotion.

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