Advertisement

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 555–565 | Cite as

Situational meaninglessness and state boredom: Cross-sectional and experience-sampling findings

  • Christian S. Chan
  • Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg
  • Eric R. Igou
  • Cyanea Y. S. Poon
  • Katy Y. Y. Tam
  • Venus U. T. Wong
  • S. K. Cheung
Original Paper

Abstract

Theories of boredom assert that boredom is a product of situational meaninglessness. We conducted two studies to test if the perceived meaningfulness of a situation is associated with state boredom, above and beyond sadness, personality traits, and boredom proneness. In Study 1, 105 participants (72.4% female: mean age = 33.9 years, SD = 17.5) described situations in which they experienced boredom, no boredom, engagement, or sadness. They then rated the level of state boredom, sadness, and meaninglessness that they experienced in that situation. As hypothesized, state boredom was associated with situational meaninglessness, before and after controlling for sadness. In Study 2, 148 participants (73.0% female; mean age = 19.2 years, SD = 1.8) first provided baseline data on personality traits and boredom proneness. Through a smartphone app-based experience-sampling method, they then responded to a brief questionnaire multiple times a day, across 7 days. The questionnaire asked about the nature of their current activity, whether the activity was done alone or with other people, and their affective state. Results from multilevel modelling of 3022 entries suggest that perceived meaningfulness of the activity was negatively associated with state boredom, above and beyond sadness, personality, and boredom proneness. We also found that being with others during the activity acted as a moderator; activities lower in perceived meaningfulness were associated with higher ratings of state boredom when done with others than when done alone. These results demonstrate that perceptions of meaninglessness characterize state boredom.

Keywords

Boredom proneness State boredom Meaning Existential psychology Experience sampling 

References

  1. Altschule, M. D. (1965). Acedia: Its evolution from deadly sin to psychiatric syndrome. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 111(471), 117–119.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Anusic, I., Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2016). The validity of the day reconstruction method in the German socio-economic panel study. Social Indicators Research, 1(130), 213–232.Google Scholar
  3. Barbalet, J. M. (1999). Boredom and social meaning. The British Journal of Sociology, 50(4), 631–646.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2014). Lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using eigen and S4 (R package version1).Google Scholar
  5. Baxter, K. K., Avrekh, A., & Evans, B. (2015). Using experience sampling methodology to collect deep data about your users. In Proceedings of the 33rd annual ACM conference extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems (pp. 2489–2490). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  6. Burger, J. M. (1995). Individual differences in preference for solitude. Journal of Research in Personality, 29(1), 85–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Castano, E., Yzerbyt, V., Paladino, M., & Sacchi, S. (2002). I belong, therefore, I exist: Ingroup identification, ingroup entitativity, and ingroup bias. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(2), 135–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chin, A., Markey, A., Bhargava, S., Kassam, K. S., & Loewenstein, G. (2017). Bored in the USA: Experience sampling and boredom in everyday life. Emotion, 17(2), 359–368.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Coughlan, G., Igou, E. R., Van Tilburg, W. A. P., Kinsella, E. L., & Ritchie, T. D. (2017). On boredom and the perceptions of heroes: A meaning-regulation approach to heroism. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817705281.Google Scholar
  10. Culp, N. A. (2006). The relations of two facets of boredom proneness with the major dimensions of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 999–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eastwood, J. D., Frischen, A., Fenske, M. J., & Smilek, D. (2012). The unengaged mind defining boredom in terms of attention. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5), 482–495.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Elpidorou, A. (2014). The bright side of boredom. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1245.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Fahlman, S. A., Mercer, K. B., Gaskovski, P., Eastwood, A. E., & Eastwood, J. D. (2009). Does a lack of life meaning cause boredom? Results from psychometric, longitudinal, and experimental analyses. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28(3), 307–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fahlman, S. A., Mercer-Lynn, K. B., Flora, D. B., & Eastwood, J. D. (2013). Development and validation of the multidimensional state boredom scale. Assessment, 20(1), 68–85.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Farmer, R., & Sundberg, N. D. (1986). Boredom proneness–the development and correlates of a new scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 50(1), 4–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher, C. D. (1993). Boredom at work: A neglected concept. Human Relations, 46(3), 395–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerritsen, C. J., Toplak, M. E., Sciaraffa, J., & Eastwood, J. (2014). I can’t get no satisfaction: Potential causes of boredom. Consciousness and Cognition, 27, 27–41.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldberg, Y. K., Eastwood, J. D., LaGuardia, J., & Danckert, J. (2011). Boredom: An emotional experience distinct from apathy, anhedonia, or depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(6), 647–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gomez-Ramirez, J., & Costa, T. (2017). Boredom begets creativity: A solution to the exploitation–exploration trade-off in predictive coding. Biosystems, 162, 168–176.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., & Pyszczynski, T. (1997). Terror management theory of self-esteem and cultural worldviews: Empirical assessments and conceptual refinements. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 61–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Greenson, R. R. (1953). On boredom. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 1(1), 7–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion: Cambridge studies in emotion and social interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hunter, J. A., Abraham, E. H., Hunter, A. G., Goldberg, L. C., & Eastwood, J. D. (2016). Personality and boredom proneness in the prediction of creativity and curiosity. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 22, 48–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hunter, J. A., & Eastwood, J. D. (2016). Does state boredom cause failures of attention? Examining the relations between trait boredom, state boredom, and sustained attention. Experimental Brain Research.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4749-7 PubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Isacescu, J., Struk, A. A., & Danckert, J. (2016). Cognitive and affective predictors of boredom proneness. Cognition and Emotion, 23, 1–8.Google Scholar
  26. Kurzban, R., Duckworth, A., Kable, J. W., & Myers, J. (2013). An opportunity cost model of subjective effort and task performance. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(6), 661–679.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Larson, R., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Graef, R. (1982). Time alone in daily experience: Loneliness or renewal. In L. A. Peplau & D. Perlman (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy, pp. 40–53. New York: WileyGoogle Scholar
  28. Martin, M., Sadlo, G., & Stew, G. (2006). The phenomenon of boredom. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 193–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mercer-Lynn, K. B., Bar, R. J., & Eastwood, J. D. (2014). Causes of boredom: The person, the situation, or both? Personality and Individual Differences, 56, 122–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mercer-Lynn, K. B., Flora, D. B., Fahlman, S. A., & Eastwood, J. D. (2013). The measurement of boredom: Differences between existing self-report scales. Assessment, 20(5), 585–596.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Merrifield, C., & Danckert, J. (2014). Characterizing the psychophysiological signature of boredom. Experimental brain research, 232(2), 481–491.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Mikulas, W. L., & Vodanovich, S. J. (1993). The essence of boredom. The Psychological Record, 43(1), 3–12.Google Scholar
  33. Nett, U. E., Goetz, T., & Daniels, L. M. (2010). What to do when feeling bored?: Students’ strategies for coping with boredom. Learning and Individual Differences, 20(6), 626–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Neu, J. (1998). Boring from within. In W. F. Flack & J. D. Laird (Eds.), Emotions in psychopathology: Theory and research, pp. 158–170. New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  35. Ng, A. H., Liu, Y., Chen, J. Z., & Eastwood, J. D. (2015). Culture and state boredom: A comparison between European Canadians and Chinese. Personality and Individual Differences, 75, 13–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Connor, D. (1967). The phenomena of boredom. Journal of Existentialism, 7(27), 381–399.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Hanlon, J. F. (1981). Boredom: Practical consequences and a theory. Acta Psychologica, 49(1), 53–82.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Parkhurst, J. T., & Hopmeyer, A. (1999). Developmental change in the sources of loneliness in childhood and adolescence: Constructing a theoretical model. In K. J. Rotenberg & S. Hymel (Eds.), Loneliness in childhood and adolescence (pp. 56–59). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Daniels, L. M., Stupnisky, R. H., & Perry, R. P. (2010). Boredom in achievement settings: Exploring control–value antecedents and performance outcomes of a neglected emotion. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 531–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rammstedt, B., & John, O. P. (2007). Measuring personality in one minute or less: A 10-item short version of the Big Five Inventory in English and German. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 203–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ritchie, T. D., Batteson, T. J., Bohn, A., Crawford, M. T., Ferguson, G. V., Schrauf, R. W., et al. (2015). A pancultural perspective on the fading affect bias in autobiographical memory. Memory, 23, 278–290.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith, C. A., & Ellsworth, P. C. (1985). Patterns of cognitive appraisal in emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(4), 813–838.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Struk, A. A., Scholer, A. A., & Danckert, J. (2016). A self-regulatory approach to understanding boredom proneness. Cognition and Emotion, 30(8), 1388–1401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Svendsen, L. (2005). A philosophy of boredom (J. Irons, Trans.). London: Reaktion.Google Scholar
  46. Van Tilburg, W. A., & Igou, E. R. (2011). On boredom and social identity: A pragmatic meaning-regulation approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(12), 1679–1691.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Van Tilburg, W. A., & Igou, E. R. (2012). On boredom: Lack of challenge and meaning as distinct boredom experiences. Motivation and Emotion, 36(2), 181–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Van Tilburg, W. A., & Igou, E. R. (2013). On the meaningfulness of behavior: An expectancy x value approach. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 373–388.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-012-9316-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Van Tilburg, W. A., & Igou, E. R. (2017a). Boredom begs to differ: Differentiation from other negative emotions. Emotion, 17(2), 309–322.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Tilburg, W. A., & Igou, E. R. (2017b). Can boredom help? Increased prosocial intentions in response to boredom. Self and Identity, 16(1), 82–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vodanovich, S. J. (2003). Psychometric measures of boredom: A review of the literature. Journal of Psychology, 137, 569–595.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Wallbott, H. G. (1998). Bodily expression of emotion. European Journal of Social Psychology, 28(6), 879–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian S. Chan
    • 1
  • Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg
    • 2
  • Eric R. Igou
    • 3
  • Cyanea Y. S. Poon
    • 1
  • Katy Y. Y. Tam
    • 1
  • Venus U. T. Wong
    • 1
  • S. K. Cheung
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong
  2. 2.School of PsychologyKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland

Personalised recommendations