Tag Archives: boredom

People with good memory get bored faster

Science has shown what many already suspect — a good memory means you might get bored much faster, and the reason is pretty simple.

Memory and boredom might have a tight connection. Image via Max Pixel.

Basically, people with more memory spend more time analyzing said memories. They remember more details about their experiences, and that makes them feel like they’ve experienced it more. Being more familiar with your own thoughts can make you feel like you’ve experienced things more than you actually have, which means you’re more likely to grow tired of things you’ve already tried.

Noelle Nelson, lead author of the University of Kansas (KU), says this applies to all sorts of daily activities.

“Our findings suggest that if they can enhance their memory for the other times they’ve eaten these foods, they may feel satiated and then not seek out those unhealthy things,” said Nelson, assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior in the KU School of Business.

She and coauthor Joseph Redden, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, carried out four experiments with undergrads. The first thing was to measure the participants’ working memory, which they did in several different ways — for instance, by making them repeat a series of letters or asking them to recall how they performed in a memory game.

In the next stage, they asked participants to do something they would ultimately get bored of, such as viewing paintings or listening to music. They then correlated the two, finding that undergraduates with better memory got bored faster, or to use a more technical term, they were satiated sooner. Of course, this doesn’t imply causation, but it does seem to strongly suggest that working memory capacity is a critical cognitive mechanism associated with satiation.

This isn’t a novel idea, and previous research has indicated such a relationship in the past, but this is the first study to discuss and shed some light on the underlying mechanism. The study abstract reads:

“We also develop insight into the underlying cognitive mechanism using mediation and moderation to show that people utilizing a larger working memory capacity satiate faster because they more deeply encode and process each stimulus.”

Researchers say that the most immediate application is in marketing, where marketers could devise better strategies to keep users engaged for longer periods of time. However, this approach could benefit several other areas. For instance, schools and universities could improve the teaching process and thus benefit education as a whole. Or, psychologists could use it in their treatment to tailor an individual approach to different patients. Even, as the researchers themselves say, in weight management.

“Because a big part of overeating is psychological, a psychological solution such as memory processes could help people control their eating,” Nelson said. “Consumers might be able to satiate more quickly by simply recalling the last several times they ate.”

Although the usefulness of this study should not be underestimated, when it comes to boredom, I’m with Louis CK on this one — in this day and age, you simply don’t get to be bored, at least not in the sense that most people are saying it. You’ve got the internet, which is pretty much the entire knowledge and humor of mankind. You’ve got an endless amount of documentaries or funny videos, and there are more books than you could hope to read in a hundred lives. So really, don’t try to see this as “oh, I must have a great memory that’s why I’m bored all the time.” No, if this is the case, you’re not bored, you’re just lazy. Seriously, you don’t get to say “I’m bored,” and here’s why:

Boredom can lead to more extreme political views, surprising study finds

Boredom may be a significant factor when it comes to our political views, a new study by researchers from King’s College London and the University of Limerick reports.

A souvenir seller appears bored as she waits for customers. Photo by Adam Jones.

Few people are truly interested in politics, but we all have our own political views – even though we might not be aware of them. They’re influenced by what we think about other people, about society and everything around us. Most of the world today lives in a system called democracy, and in democracy, we generally tend to think of political ideologies in a left-right spectrum. To simplify things, the left part can be associated with socialism, progressivism and believing in civil rights. Meanwhile, the right part includes capitalists, conservatives and traditionalists.

Of course, if we’re talking about a political spectrum, then saying you’re “left” or “right” doesn’t make much sense. You can have central or mixed opinions, you can lean slightly or moderately to the left or right, or you can have far left/right views. This is where things really get dangerous. Towards the far left of the spectrum you can find communism, and conversely on the other side you’d find fascism. Needless to say, these are two really undesirable outcomes, no matter what side you lean towards.

For this study, researchers asked 97 people from a university campus to classify their political orientation. After  that assigned a boring task of classifying and transcribing 10 references about concrete mixing for one group, while another group transcribed only two of these references. They were then asked to classify their political options again, this time on a seven-point scale. They found that liberals in the low boredom group were more moderate in their political orientation, compared to liberals in the high boredom group. A similar trend was found for conservatives, though for a smaller sample size.

The fact that boredom can make people have more extreme views is extremely worrying, and quite surprising. Dr Wijnand van Tilburg from King’s College London, who led the study, said:

‘Boredom puts people on edge – it makes them seek engagements that are challenging, exciting, and that offer a sense of purpose. Political ideologies can aid this existential quest.’ He added: ‘Boredom motivates people to alter their situation and fosters the engagement in activities that seem more meaningful than those currently at hand.’ The authors suggest that adopting a more extreme political ideology is one way that people re-inject meaningfulness into a boring situation.

This would mean that a completely irrelevant and external factor influences something deeply enrooted in us, such as our political beliefs. Dr Eric Igou from the University of Limerick, added:

‘These studies indicate that political views are, in part, based on boredom and the need to counteract these negative, existential experiences with ideologies that seem to provide meaning in life. The implications of these findings are obvious. Possibly politically radicalised individuals and groups are, at least to some degree, driven by boredom experiences in their everyday lives as an attempt to make life seem more meaningful.’

At the moment, we don’t know exactly how much boredom affects our political views, that’s a subject for further research.

‘To gain more insight into the magnitude of boredom’s role one could test, say, how voters behave in an election and see how that correlates with individual differences in boredom. At present, we do not have such data but this is clearly an interesting future direction for researchers who study boredom and voting behaviour.’

The research was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.