Boredom Photo courtesy of Melbourne Child PsychologyOpens in new window

Boredom is an emotional state that occurs when an individual is uninterested in activities in whch s/he is engaged. Boredom may also occur when a person is inactive.

Boredom is experienced as unpleasant and may be associated with strong negative emotionsOpens in new window, including anxietyOpens in new window and depressionOpens in new window. A number of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers, such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Fromm, discussed boredom in their writings.

Heidegger considered boredom at length, describing it and expounding on causes and effects. In 1929 and 1930, in his lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, he produced what amounts to about 100 pages on the subject.

His primary example of a situation related to boredom was waiting at train stations (Heidegger, 1930/2001). As Heidegger further elaborated, when one’s mind is unoccupied, one may encounter nothingness, the meaninglessness of life, and may experience anxietyOpens in new window and angstOpens in new window. Pursuing this line of thought can be truly painful.

Boredom can be associated with serous psychological and social problems. For instance, a tendency to become bored is linked to depression, anxiety, and hostility (e.g., Vodanovich, Verner, & Gilbride, 1991). At least one study showed that boredom can be related to compulsive gambling (Blaszcyznski, McConaghy, & Frankova, 1990).

Some theorists and researchers have discussed possible remedies for boredom. As Sansone and colleagues describe, boredom can be decreased or possibly eliminated by increasing the challenge that the activity presents, testing an individual’s skill and thereby increasing motivation. Since boredom may result in both unchallenging and overly challenging tasks, however, one has to be careful to create the proper level of challenge.

A second way to decrease boredom is to add variety to a task that is repetitive, for instance, when cleaning the house, put on some music for a change and try cleaning in time to the music.

A third method is to change the context mentally through fantasy. For instance, researchers Cordova and Lepper (1996) transformed a computer software program that teaches math to elementary students. They created two fantasy games: oen was “Space Quest,” a game that requires that students perform math operations to save Earth from aliens.

Cordova and Lepper’s study compared a standard method for teaching math through a computer software program to the “Space Quest” and other fantasy method and found that students who learned through a fantasy game learned math better than did the other students who were more likely to report that the computer program that they used was interesting and fun.

See also:
  1. Deal, L. (2005). Boredom solution: Understanding and dealing with boredom. San Luis Obispo, CA: Dandy Lion.
  2. Svenden, L. (2005). A philosophy of boredom (J. Irons, Trans.). London: Reaktion Press. (Original work published 1999).
  3. Blaszcynski, A., McConaghy, N., & Frankova, A. (1990). Boredom proneness in pathological gambling. Psycholgoical Reports, 67 (1), 35 – 42.
  4. Sansone, C., Weir, C., Harpster, L., & Morgan, C. (1992). Once a boring task always a boring task? Interest as a self-regulatory mechanism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 379 – 390.
  5. Vodanovich, S. J., Verner, K, M., & Gilbride, T. V. (1991). Boredom proneness: Its relationship to positive and negative affect. Psychological Reports, 69 (3, Pt. 2), 1139 – 1146.