5th Type Of Boredom Discovered: How Bored Are You?

By Rhonda J. Miller on December 7, 2013 3:21 PM EST

Boredom Has Five Varieties
Apathetic boredom is the fifth type of boredom identified in a new study and it may be the most detrimental type because it is similar to depression (Photo: Wavebreak Media / Rhonda J. Miller)

For those who were bored with the previously identified four types of boredom — yes, four different boredoms are already on the books — here's a new type. It's called apathetic boredom.

This newly catalogued, fifth variety of boredom, characterized by a strong stain of apathy, is explained in "Types of Boredom: An Experience Sampling Approach" in the November issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion, by a research team led by psychologist Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz in Germany.

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"Boredom is the most often and most intense emotion experienced by students, much more intense than enjoyment, anxiety, or anger," said Goetz, according to National GeographicThe study collected real-time data from university and high school students several times a day over a two-week period. Researchers found that every student experienced some level of boredom. Four types of boredom were previously identified in a 2006 study, in which Goetz participated. In order of least detrimental to most, they were: 

  • Indifferent Boredom: This can actually be a somewhat pleasant experience, such as watching bad TV after a long and exhausting day at school or work. "If you go to a class and you're tired and the class is boring, the boredom is experienced as rather relaxing and even positive," said Goetz.
  • Calibrating Boredom: Daydreaming with no motivation to get up and search for something different to do is an example of this type of boredom.
  • Searching Boredom: Motivation to find something more interesting to do, which can end up being positive, neutral or negative, characterizes this form or boredom. Texting a friend to break the boredom is an innocuous response, but becoming violent or choosing risky behavior are negative responses. "However, searching boredom can also result in high creative and positive actions," said Goetz.
  • Reactant Boredom:  Feeling trapped in a boring situation, like a lecture or meeting, is the overriding feeling of this variety of boredom. If the circumstances can't be changed — let's say it's going to cause you future problems if you leave the class or meeting — this type of boredom can be accompanied by feelings of restlessness and aggression, along with the desire to do something else. "You are bored, you can't leave the situation, and this goes in line with feelings of aggression," said Goetz.

The fifth boredom, known as apathetic boredom, was the surprise finding in the study. It was determined to be extremely unpleasant and similar to depression. Apathetic boredom is accompanied by a lack of motivation and can have negative consequences. "Apathetic boredom can be assumed to be detrimental for personal psychological health,"  said Goetz. It was reported by 36 percent of the sample group and is apparently the most common type, according to the Daily Mail.

Researchers said that identifying which kind of boredom a person is experiencing could lead to finding help for those who need to improve the situation at work, school, in the workplace, or in personal relationships, the Daily Mail reported. Specific assistance could be directed toward those with attention disorders or poor learning skills.

The study included teams from the City University of New York and McGill University in Montreal, the Daily Mail reported. According to the journal Motivation and Emotion, the research teams collected data from 143 university and high school students. Of those, 63 were a mean age of about 24 years old, and 80 students were a mean age of 17 years old. The multiple experiences of boredom studied were made up of 1,103 boredom experiences in the older group and 1,432 experiences among the high school students. The study asked students questions about their negative or positive feelings and rated their levels of calm or fidgetiness. Researchers found personalized responses to boredom, suggesting it could be linked to personality type.

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