Boredom and politics
Boredom can lead to political extremism, researchers say Istock

Being bored may lead individuals to adopt more extreme political views, researchers have discovered. Boredom may indeed result in individuals searching for a new meaning in life, which they can find in political extremism.

In two separate experiments conducted in Northern Ireland, researchers tested whether boredom was associated with a stronger adherence to left- versus right-wing beliefs. They investigated whether more extreme political ideologies could serve as source of meaning for individuals, alleviating the boredom experienced in their daily lives.

Boring tasks and meaning of life

In the first part to the study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the scientists recruited 97 university students who told them about their political orientation. They then assigned them to one of two tasks, one very boring and the other less so.

The very boring task involved individuals transcribing 10 references to concrete mixing, while the less boring task only demanded they transcribe to of these references. Afterwards, asked again about their political beliefs, the students in the low-boredom group appeared more moderate in their political orientation, compared to those in the high boredom group.

The second experiment involved surveying 859 people living in Northern Ireland. People who reported being more easily bored, frequently admitted to searching for a meaning to life and tended to endorse more extreme political views.

The authors therefore suggest that adopting a more extreme political ideology is one way that people re-inject meaningfulness into a boring situation.

"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. Boredom motivates people to alter their situation and fosters the engagement in activities that seem more meaningful than those currently at hand", study author Dr Wijnand van Tilburg from King's College London says.

Boredom in an election

More research is, however, required to define the extent of boredom's influence on political views and election results. Although boredom clearly appears to play a role in the political climate, it is unclear how big a role this is.

"Political orientations, or the political climate in general, is of course a complex phenomenon influenced by many variables. Our research tested and found that boredom is one of them, but we did not fully test how big its role is. To gain more insight into the magnitude of boredom's role one could test, how voters behave in an election and see how that correlates with individual differences in boredom", Dr van Tilburg concludes