Second, boredom typically occurs when people have trouble focusing their attention and they believe the reason for this difficulty is in the environment. When sitting in the airport, for example, there is probably a lot going on. There are people having conversations that you could listen to. You probably have something to read. There may be televisions showing the news. But, the stress of waiting for a delayed flight often makes it hard to concentrate, and so your mind jumps from one thing to another. You assume that this is caused by the environment, and so you feel boredom.

The authors of this paper point to an interesting study by Robin Damrad-Frye and James Laird in the August 1989 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In this study, participants had to listen to a tape of a person reading a Psychology Today article. In the next room, there was a television soundtrack from a soap opera playing. For some groups listening to the article, the TV was very loud and distracting, for others it was barely noticeable, and for some it was not playing at all. After listening to the article, people rated their boredom during the study. 


Different scholars use different definitions of boredom, which complicates research.[9] Boredom has been defined by Cynthia D. Fisher in terms of its main central psychological processes: "an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest and difficulty concentrating on the current activity."[10] Mark Leary et al. describe boredom as "an affective experience associated with cognitive attentional processes."[11] In positive psychology, boredom is described as a response to a moderate challenge for which the subject has more than enough skill.[12][full citation needed]

Flow is a state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities, akin to “being in the zone.” Flow occurs when a person’s skills match the level of challenge presented by the environment and when a task includes clear goals and immediate feedback. Tasks that are too easy are boring. In contrast, tasks that people perceive to be too difficult lead to anxiety.


Boredom is a universal experience. Almost everyone suffers from it in the course of their lives. Existing survey estimates show that between 30 percent and 90 percent of American adults experience boredom at some point in their daily lives, as do 91 percent to 98 percent of youth (Chin et al., 2017). Men are generally more bored than women. There is also a positive link between very low educational attainment and boredom.
Martin Heidegger wrote about boredom in two texts available in English, in the 1929/30 semester lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, and again in the essay What is Metaphysics? published in the same year. In the lecture, Heidegger included about 100 pages on boredom, probably the most extensive philosophical treatment ever of the subject. He focused on waiting at railway stations in particular as a major context of boredom.[25] Søren Kierkegaard remarks in Either/Or that "patience cannot be depicted" visually, since there is a sense that any immediate moment of life may be fundamentally tedious.

A 1989 study indicated that an individual's impression of boredom may be influenced by the individual's degree of attention, as a higher acoustic level of distraction from the environment correlated with higher reportings of boredom.[32] Boredom has been studied as being related to drug abuse among teens.[33] Boredom has been proposed as a cause of pathological gambling behavior. A study found results consistent with the hypothesis that pathological gamblers seek stimulation to avoid states of boredom and depression.[34] It has been suggested that boredom has an evolutionary basis that encourages humans to seek out new challenges. It may influence human learning and ingenuity.[35]


The people who heard the barely noticeable TV rated themselves as more bored than either the ones who heard the loud TV or heard no soundtrack. The idea is that both the loud TV and the soft TV were distracting, but for those who heard the loud TV it was clear why they were distracted from the article. Thus, they may have been frustrated with the noise, but they were not bored. Those who heard the soft soundtrack had difficulty concentrating, but they were not sure why, and so they attributed the difficulty concentrating to boredom.
The bored antihero became prominent in early 20th century existentialist works such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915),[43] Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938) (French for 'Nausea'),[44] and Albert Camus' L'Étranger (1942) (French for 'The Stranger').[45] The protagonist in these works is an indecisive central character who drifts through his life and is marked by ennui, angst, and alienation.[46]
The authors of this paper point to an interesting study by Robin Damrad-Frye and James Laird in the August 1989 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In this study, participants had to listen to a tape of a person reading a Psychology Today article. In the next room, there was a television soundtrack from a soap opera playing. For some groups listening to the article, the TV was very loud and distracting, for others it was barely noticeable, and for some it was not playing at all. After listening to the article, people rated their boredom during the study. 
One more key element of boredom is control. Boredom often occurs when you have little control over your situation. Waiting rooms, lectures, and airline gates are all places where you have little control over your situation. Normally, we react to unpleasant situations by changing the situation. If you don’t like a book you are reading, for example, you close it and do something else. Boredom happens when you are unable to change the situation.  
Boredom also plays a role in existentialist thought. Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were two of the first philosophers considered fundamental to the existentialist movement. Like Pascal, they were interested in people's quiet struggle with the apparent meaninglessness of life and the use of diversion to escape from boredom. Kierkegaard's Either/Or describes the rotation method, a method used by higher level aesthetes in order to avoid boredom. The method is an essential hedonistic aspect of the aesthetic way of life. For the aesthete, one constantly changes what one is doing in order to maximize the enjoyment and pleasure derived from each activity.
Lethargy is a state of tiredness, weariness, fatigue, or lack of energy. It can be accompanied by depression, decreased motivation, or apathy. Lethargy can be a normal response to boredom, inadequate sleep, overexertion, overworking, stress, lack of exercise, or a symptom of a disorder. When part of a normal response, lethargy often resolves with rest, adequate sleep, decreased stress, and good nutrition.[21][22]
Acceptance Affection Amusement Anger Angst Anguish Annoyance Anticipation Anxiety Apathy Arousal Awe Boredom Confidence Contempt Contentment Courage Cruelty Curiosity Depression Desire Despair Disappointment Disgust Distrust Ecstasy Embarrassment Empathy Enthusiasm Envy Euphoria Fear Frustration Gratification Gratitude Greed Grief Guilt Happiness Hatred Hope Horror Hostility Humiliation Interest Jealousy Joy Kindness Loneliness Love Lust Outrage Panic Passion Pity Pleasure Pride Rage Regret Rejection Remorse Resentment Sadness Saudade Schadenfreude Self-confidence Self-pity Shame Shock Shyness Social connection Sorrow Suffering Surprise Trust Wonder Worry
A 1989 study indicated that an individual's impression of boredom may be influenced by the individual's degree of attention, as a higher acoustic level of distraction from the environment correlated with higher reportings of boredom.[32] Boredom has been studied as being related to drug abuse among teens.[33] Boredom has been proposed as a cause of pathological gambling behavior. A study found results consistent with the hypothesis that pathological gamblers seek stimulation to avoid states of boredom and depression.[34] It has been suggested that boredom has an evolutionary basis that encourages humans to seek out new challenges. It may influence human learning and ingenuity.[35]
“Time is quixotic because it can torment us. When we have insufficient stimulus to fill our lives, we resent the relentless quality of time, and we engage in activities designed to “kill time.” Time that passes slowly creates insufferable boredom; time that passes to quickly makes us aware of our accelerated death march. A person’s perspective on time depends mostly on what they are most afraid of, boredom or death.”

Only in the last decade has there been much scientific research looking into the nature of boredom. In 2006, a study classified boredom into four different types, with a follow-up study published this month in the journal Motivation and Emotion adding a fifth kind of boredom, called apathetic boredom, to the list. The researchers involved in the study had 63 university students and 80 high school students answer smartphone-based surveys about their activities and experiences over the course of two weeks.


Some individuals are more likely to be bored than others. People with a strong need for novelty, excitement, and variety are at risk of boredom. These sensation seekers (e.g., skydivers) are likely to find that the world moves too slowly. The need for external stimulation may explain why extroverts tend to be particularly prone to boredom. Novelty seeking and risk-taking is the way that these people self-medicate to cure their boredom. 
×