Boredom Is Actually Quite Intriguing

By nature, boredom seems like something that could barely be bothered to be interesting, but it turns out that the topic of boredom is actually quite intriguing. According to research, there are officially five identified types of boredom that a person can experience. The surprisingly intricate profile of boredom has been expanded from the previously identified four types to incorporate a new type that has been recently revealed by a new study.

The study was conducted by an international team of researchers headed by Dr. Thomas Goetz from the University of Konstanz as well as Thurgau University of Teacher Education. Research efforts were a collaboration between several universities, including the University of Munich, the University of Ulm and the University of Montreal and were carried out as follow up to research conducted by Dr. Goetz and Anne Frenzel, Ph.D., back in 2006.

The new study involved 63 participants from a German University with a mean age of 24, 66 percent of whom were female and 80 participants from a German high school having a mean age of 17, 58 percent being female. Over the course of two weeks, the participants were asked to spend a day filling in digital questionnaires to account for their experiences during their daily routines.

Based on the results from the data collected with these questionnaires, Dr. Goetz and his team established that there were likely five types of boredom. Four of these types of boredom coincide with the conclusions derived from Goetz’s 2006 research but the fifth type is considered to be a new one. This new type of boredom deepens our understanding of how being bored affects behavior and is prompting further questions from researchers who find that boredom is actually quite intriguing after all.

Boredom humorThe four types of boredom outlined in previous research were calibrating boredom, indifferent boredom, reactant boredom and searching boredom. Calibrating boredom involves daydreaming, but as Goetz says, the person is “not actively searching for new options.” Indifferent boredom involves feelings of relaxation and calm. This type of boredom is commonly experienced when doing things like watching television. Reactant boredom is less pleasant. It is the type of boredom that makes a person feel trapped and restless. Often these feelings are accompanied by an increase in aggression. The example given by Goetz is that of a student trapped in an especially long and tedious lecture where the student becomes angrier the longer the boredom remains inescapable and the option to do something else remains elusive. Searching boredom contrasts calibrating or indifferent boredom in that the boredom drives the person to find some sort of task to perform.

These types of boredom are typical, relatively harmless and usually temporary. However, the newest type to be defined by Goetz and his team has the potential to be far more impactful and intrusive in a person’s daily life. It is known as apathetic boredom and it seems to have some parallels with depression. This type is characterized by unpleasant feelings that do nothing to motivate the person to action. It creates a response that looks a lot like learned helplessness and is often found in individuals with high levels of aversion. Around 36 percent of the high school aged participants reported experiencing this type of boredom, leaving Goetz and his team to question what kind of impact this type of boredom may have on young students’ education.

In addition to the establishment of a fifth type of boredom, the study revealed that the types of boredom experienced by a person is not random. Instead, personality seems to play a role in what types of boredom are most typically experienced by individual people.

Everyone has, at some point in their lives, muttered the phrase, “I’m bored,” leaving a deceptively simple impression regarding the concept of boredom. However, the results from this newest study have revealed that boredom is not so simple and is actually quite intricate and intriguing.

By Vanessa Blanchard


Springer – Abstract


National Geographic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.