Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 181–194 | Cite as

On boredom: Lack of challenge and meaning as distinct boredom experiences

  • Wijnand A. P. van TilburgEmail author
  • Eric R. Igou
Original Paper


Boredom is a common experience that affects people on multiple levels, including their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and actions. Not much research, however, has examined what makes the experience of boredom distinct from other affective experiences. Based on earlier research on boredom and our meaning-regulation framework, we conducted a series of four studies that demonstrate the distinct experiential content of boredom. More than other negative affective experiences (sadness, anger, and frustration), boredom makes people feel unchallenged while they think that the situation and their actions are meaningless (Study 1). The distinct experiential content of boredom is associated with boredom proneness (Study 2) and with state boredom experiences (Study 3). In addition, the distinct experiential content of boredom is affected by contextual features (Study 4). This series of studies provides a systematic understanding of what people feel, think, and want to do when bored, distinctive from other negative experiences.


Boredom Challenge Meaning Emotion 



This research was in part funded by a PhD scholarship grant from the Irish Research Council for the Social Sciences and Humanities (IRCHSS). We want to thank Marcel Zeelenberg for his encouraging remarks on our undertaking, the members of the Social Cognition and Decision Making Lab for their constructive comments on our research, and Annemieke J. M. van den Tol for her assistance in data collection. In addition, we would also like to thank Timothy D. Ritchie for his feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Computer Science BuildingUniversity of LimerickCastletroyRepublic of Ireland

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