National Geographic Daily News
Photo of bored meeting attendants.

Indifferent boredom, one of the five types, can be rather relaxing.

PHOTOGRAPH BY BETTMANN/CORBIS

Katia Andreassi

National Geographic

Published November 21, 2013

Who knew boredom could be so interesting? But it's not just being bored; it's what kind of boredom you are experiencing that has researchers intrigued.

According to an article published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, there are five types of boredom—which is one more than the research team expected to identify. The boredom varieties range from a calm and pleasant experience to something more like depression.

The research team, led by Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz and the Thurgau University of Teacher Education in Konstanz, Germany, collected real-time data from university and high-school students multiple times a day over a two-week period. They found that boredom is not only widespread—every student in the study experienced some level of boredom—but it's also more common than other emotions. "Boredom is the most often and most intense emotion experienced by students," wrote Goetz in an email, "much more intense than enjoyment, anxiety or anger."

Students reported if they were bored, answered questions about their positive or negative feelings, and rated how calm or fidgety they felt. From these reports the researchers identified five different types of boredom. They also found that tedium is personal. "People tend to experience specific types of boredom," said Goetz, which could mean that boredom is linked to your personality.

So, which type of boredom do you experience?

Indifferent boredom: This is a pleasant form of boredom, said Goetz, giving as an example a student who has had a really long day. "You go to a class, you are tired, and the class is boring. However, the boredom is experienced as rather relaxing and even positive. It is still boredom, but you like being bored." Another example? Zoning out on the couch in front of a marathon of trashy reality TV.

Calibrating boredom: Do you let your thoughts wander? If you are open to new ideas but don't feel any motivation to actually get up and do something, that's calibrating boredom. "It is like daydreaming," said Goetz, "but not actively searching for new actions."

Searching boredom: If you have ever responded to the question "why did you do it?" with "because I was bored," you have possibly experienced searching boredom. People who experience searching boredom are highly motivated to find a more interesting activity. This type of boredom can lead to innocuous behavior like texting a friend, or may prompt violent or risky actions, explained Goetz. "However, searching boredom can also result in highly creative and positive actions," he said. "Thus, it is a big chance—it leads to actions."

Reactant boredom: Trapped in a boring lecture or never-ending meeting? You may be experiencing reactant boredom. When you can't change your circumstances—get up and leave the classroom or conference room—your boredom may be accompanied by restlessness and aggression, along with the desire to do something else. "You are bored, you can't leave the situations, and this goes in line with feelings of aggression," said Goetz.

Apathetic boredom: This type of boredom was a surprise to the researchers. The other types were first identified in a 2006 study that Goetz participated in, but apathetic boredom—a very unpleasant form of boredom accompanied by a lack of motivation—emerged from this recent research. It seems to be similar to depression, and it may have more negative consequences than other types.

"Apathetic boredom can be assumed to be detrimental for personal psychological health," Goetz said.

Are there more ways to be bored out there? "I don't think that there are further types of boredom," said Goetz, "but let's see."

Follow Katia Andreassi on Twitter.

24 comments
M R
M R

I'm so SICK of the Commercial Advertisements with National Geographic!  What gives! 

rihab elmalek
rihab elmalek

It's a good topic i like it so match ,but which type is me i can't find it i think that mean I'm not bored

Kate Neff
Kate Neff

Do the cures for boredom involve willing ones' self to be active, physically and/or mentally?

Seema Usmani
Seema Usmani

Interesting! Love the pic.... Some look awfully bored! ;). A description coined just now LoL!

Biju Toha
Biju Toha

Just I am so bored with these boredom. ha ha ha ...

Tara Merritt
Tara Merritt

Reactant boredom - Finally I can understand why I feel like punching things, when Im bored and want the boring thing to stop but cant control it.

John Radicone
John Radicone

Very interesting. I definitely fall into the first 4 categories at sometime.

Raju Seettharam
Raju Seettharam

Boredom could also be a protective mechanism to help us tide over a period of time where meaningful activities or relating is not going on or cannot. It protects us from becoming neurotic I think.

Kaylin W.
Kaylin W.

I think that theses are all valid while some are very similar to the others. I think it can and should be solved by the person. i think boredom is inside your head. When I think I'm bored, what I realize is that I don't want to do something and am feeling unproductive, which is more laziness than boredom.  I'm not really bored--I have hundreds of books to read, I could be studying a lot more, I could be on the internet, I could be doing a sport, hanging out with friends, etc.  This was interesting though, thank you!

C. Palmer
C. Palmer

I believe I have experienced 4 out of the 5 boredoms mentioned. I also believe that "Indifferent Boredom" and "Reactant Boredom" are very closely knit together. I call it "Boredumb" Kind of mixing the two together in efforts to TRY to pay attention, but not really wanting to. Your mind just seems to take off - I also call it "Cathyland" when I am staring at the t.v. and my husband asks "What did you see that"? and I answer "Oh, I was just staring at it - I was in Cathyland".... Very thought provoking article.

Daniel Neri
Daniel Neri

Excellent article. It's great to see how much researchers can peer into human psyche to understand and explain our human conduct in a world with endless opportunities to be happy but at the same time, we have to experience repetititous sessions of boredom in our life. It's like stress, there are good and bad stress.

Susan Williams
Susan Williams

In my recent study of consciousness and my conclusion that free will is a myth, apathy is I agree, a form of depression. Indeed, the body's own way of suggestion to the brain that we rest. The answers are often simple. However, whilst I am sure that the brain is merely responding to chemical and/or physiological messages from the body, it is evident in clinical depression (having suffered it myself) the brain is physically disabled. In the Harry Potter stories, J.K. Rowling uses her own experience of clinical depression to create 'The Dementors'  an entity which sucks all motivation from its victims, leaving them paralyzed from enjoying anything in life, sucking every good feeling they ever had from their minds and making them prisoners as in 'the Prisoners of Azkaban'. Ie memories of previous enjoyment of anything triggers the endocrine system to feed a real sense of happiness in the brain, via chemical connections.

Stuart M.
Stuart M.

I teach at a university and, boy, do my students seem bored all the time. I've tried everything to get them to perk up but they nod off anyway. Another teacher told me they're not bored, they just party all night and don't get enough sleep. Sure enough, I looked carefully at the students before class started, and many of them were already nodding off. I've even seen students sleeping during tests! 

Robert Sucsy
Robert Sucsy

Whats the kind of boredom what manifests itself in spending the entire day reading NatGeo instead of doing spanish homework?

C. Palmer
C. Palmer

** "Did you see that" was meant instead of the "What did you see that".....

C. Palmer
C. Palmer

I, too, have been diagnosed w/ (well, severe...) depression. However, I believe depression can be some what "treated" or "helped", in some cases,by letting your brain "be free" and taking you away from what is depressing you. It ables you to think of better lives that could be lead by yourself and possibly make some changes. I am, in no way, arguing w/ you - I am just stating from my own experiences.

Young Yang
Young Yang

@Stuart M. Feel free!I think they will be better in the future.I don't know what's the diifference of education among different country.But I think this is not your fault.Kids are all different.They maybe never act as you thought and said.

How to Feed Our Growing Planet

  • Feed the World

    Feed the World

    National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

The Innovators Project

  • Brave Sage of Timbuktu

    Brave Sage of Timbuktu

    Abdel Kader Haidara had made it his life's work to document Mali's illustrious past. When the jihadists came, he led the rescue operation to save 350,000 manuscripts.

See more innovators »

Phenomena

See more posts »

Latest News Video

See more videos »

See Us on Google Glass

Shop Our Space Collection

  • Be the First to Own <i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i>

    Be the First to Own Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

    The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.

Shop Now »