Psychology Magazine

Boredom = Stress.... and Misbehavior

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds

From Merrifield and Danckert, a crisp piece of work (using the usual covey of college undergraduate as subjects) demonstrating that boredom increases stress indicators:

Research on the experience and expression of boredom is underdeveloped. The purpose of the present study was to explore the psychophysiological signature of the subjective experience of boredom. Healthy undergraduates (n = 72) viewed previously validated and standardized video clips to induce boredom, sadness, and a neutral affective state, while their heart rate (HR), skin conductance levels (SCL), and cortisol levels were measured. Boredom yielded dynamic psychophysiological responses that differed from the other emotional states. Of particular interest, the physiological signature of boredom relative to sadness was characterized by rising HR, decreased SCL, and increased cortisol levels. This pattern of results suggests that boredom may be associated with both increased arousal and difficulties with sustained attention. These findings may help to resolve divergent conceptualizations of boredom in the extant literature and, ultimately, to enhance our understanding and treatment of clinical syndromes in which self-reported boredom is a prominent symptom.
And, Bruursema et al. note a correlation between boredom and counterproductive work behavior:
In this study, the relationships among boredom proneness, job boredom, and counterproductive work behavior (CWB) were examined. Boredom proneness consists of several factors, which include external stimulation and internal stimulation. Given the strong relationships between both the external stimulation factor of boredom proneness (BP-ext) and anger as well as the strong relationship between trait anger and CWB, we hypothesized that examining BP-ext would help us to better understand why employees commit CWB. Five types of CWB have previously been described: abuse against others, production deviance, sabotage, withdrawal and theft. To those we added a sixth, horseplay. Using responses received from 211 participants who were recruited by email from throughout North America (112 of them matched with co-workers), we found support for our central premise. Indeed, both BP-ext and job boredom showed significant relationships with various types of CWB. The boredom proneness factor also moderated the relationship between job boredom and some types of CWB, suggesting that a better understanding of boredom is imperative for designing interventions to prevent CWB.

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