The nature of boredom

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 1995
Thesis identifier
  • T8619
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Though boredom is considered a universal experience "there is no agreed definition or well-developed instrument for measuring it, and there is no comprehensive theory of its causes" (Fisher 1993). Nevertheless the bored are thought to have worse work records, more accidents, higher absenteeism, and to show a host of unfortunate behaviours from delinquency to substance abuse. This research shows the existing literature of boredom to be inconsistent or inconclusive. Field observation of boring and repetitive work suggested a new model of the behaviours that are thought to be boredom related. In this model, requisite mental resource allocation is assumed to progressively decrease as a task becomes more and more familiar. Natural inertia in the allocation system results in temporary misalignments between allocated resource and task-demand. It is these misalignments that cause boredtype behaviour. The awareness of these misalignments may register as felt-boredom. The predictions of this Inertial Resource Allocation Model (IRAM) were tested in a series of experiments. It was shown that misallocation of mental resource can be reliably measured, that it is individually variable, and that it does indeed predict behaviours, notably work quality and absence, that are considered boredom sensitive. Misallocation of mental resource is proposed as a sufficient condition for inducing 'boredtype behaviour'. However, though necessary, it is not sufficient, to induce 'felt-boredom'. The same mismatch may be interpreted differently in other contexts. The conclusion is that boredom is too vague a notion to be useful to Psychology. However, a measurable and operationally defined feature of mental functioning -- mental inertia -- can explain all the phenomena once associated with the idea of boredom.
Resource Type
  • Strathclyde theses - ask staff. Thesis no. : T8619
Date Created
  • 1995
Former identifier
  • 495812