Bored in the USA: Experience Sampling and Boredom in Everyday Life

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Abstract

We report new evidence on the emotional, demographic, and situational correlates of boredom from a rich experience sample capturing 1.1 million emotional and time-use reports from 3,867 U.S. adults. Subjects report boredom in 2.8% of the 30-min sampling periods, and 63% of participants report experiencing boredom at least once across the 10-day sampling period. We find that boredom is more likely to co-occur with negative, rather than positive, emotions, and is particularly predictive of loneliness, anger, sadness, and worry. Boredom is more prevalent among men, youths, the unmarried, and those of lower income. We find that differences in how such demographic groups spend their time account for up to one third of the observed differences in overall boredom. The importance of situations in predicting boredom is additionally underscored by the high prevalence of boredom in specific situations involving monotonous or difficult tasks (e.g., working, studying) or contexts where one’s autonomy might be constrained (e.g., time with coworkers, afternoons, at school). Overall, our findings are consistent with cognitive accounts that cast boredom as emerging from situations in which engagement is difficult, and are less consistent with accounts that exclusively associate boredom with low arousal or with situations lacking in meaning.

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