Are you indifferent, restless or apathetic? Scientists identify a fifth type of boredom

A new discovery has just made boredom a little more interesting

There’s a lot more to being bored than you might think, if new research is to be believed.

Science has known about four types of boredom for a while now, but a team of international scientists have now built on their research and discovered a fifth, “especially unpleasant” form of tedium.

Dubbed “apathetic boredom”, it elicits a feeling of learned helplessness similar to depression.

According to the scientists, led by Dr Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz in Germany, boredom can be categorised by levels of arousal (ranging from “calm” to “fidgety”), and how positive or negative boredom is experienced – its “valence”.

Previously, it was thought that people could suffer from “indifferent boredom”, in which people felt withdrawn but relaxed; “calibrating boredom”, a feeling of uncertainty in which people are receptive to but do not seek out change; “searching boredom”, which is restless and pursues distraction; and “reactant boredom”, wherein people are motivated to leave their situation for a specific change.

Goetz, his colleague Anne Frenzel, and a team of fellow researchers conducted two studies among 63 German university students and 80 German high school learners. Participants would fill in questionnaires through the course of a day on a PDA, discussing their activities and experiences.

Apathetic boredom was reported in slightly more than a third of the high school students – a fact the researchers found “alarming”.

Meanwhile, the study also suggested that people might be disposed to feeling one particular type of boredom.

"We speculate that experiencing specific boredom types might, to some degree, be due to personality-specific dispositions," said Dr Goetz.  

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