Thomas Goetz, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Munich, the University of Ulm, McGill University, and the City University of New York have published one of the first studies that provides insight into how boredom is experienced in everyday life.
The study is among the first to quantifiably investigate different types of boredom.
The research is an extension of preliminary research done by Goetz and colleague Anne Frenzel, Ph.D., in 2006 in which they differentiated between four types of boredom.
They posited that boredom can be characterized according to the levels of arousal (ranging from calm to fidgety) and how positive or negative boredom is experienced (so-called valence).
They suggested four states including indifferent boredom (relaxed, withdrawn, indifferent), calibrating boredom (uncertain, receptive to change/distraction), searching boredom (restless, active pursuit of change/distraction) and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, an especially unpleasant form that resembles learned helplessness or depression. It is associated with low arousal levels and high levels of aversion.
Goetz, Frenzel and a team of fellow 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 percent of the high school students sampled.
The findings show 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 realization 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.
Further, the results shed new light on discussions about whether boredom has positive or negative effects on learning and achievement.
“This question can only be adequately answered if we know what type of boredom a student experiences,” Goetz said.