We've all experienced boredom. Maybe it was the never-ending PowerPoint about professionalism that made you profoundly bored. Or maybe the conversation at family dinner left you with a dull, blah feeling. That's the thing about boredom: There's more than just one type. Researchers have discovered that there are actually five different kinds—and most people tend to experience just one type of boredom throughout their lives. “We speculate that experiencing specific boredom types might, to some degree, be due to personality-specific dispositions," Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz and the Thurgau University of Teacher Education, one of the experts who identified the five different types, explains.
What are these types of boredom, and how can one boredom differ from another?
People with indifferent boredom appear relaxed, calm, and withdrawn. Think of it as a stoner boredom of sorts (it’s so indifferent that even its definition is barebones).
The most recent paper, which appears in Motivation and Emotion, outlines this type of boredom, discovered this year. Goetz and his colleagues found that university and high school students experienced a boredom that seems a lot like helplessness (and could contribute to depression): At least 36 percent of the high school students in the survey reported it. People who have this kind of ennui show little arousal and a lot of aversion.
People with calibrating boredom find that their thoughts wander and they want do something that differs from what they’re currently doing. But they’re not exactly sure what or how they might go about it. This state occurs when people perform repetitive tasks and want to reduce this boredom, but generally seem unsure of what to do.
This boredom is the worst—people experiencing this tedium are highly aroused and have a lot of negative emotions. They’re also restless and aggressive. People experiencing reactant boredom really want to leave their dull situations and flee from the people they blame for it, including their teachers, bosses, or parents. They waste their time thinking of situations they’d rather be in that seem more valuable than their current circumstances.
Those experiencing searching boredom experience negative feelings and a creeping, disagreeable restlessness. They look for ways out by focusing on more interesting activities.