Boredom tends to intensify political attitudes, study finds

    Listen
    Research suggests that when people are bored

    Research suggests that when people are bored

    As the election nears, finding common ground is not getting any easier.

    Now researchers in Ireland and the U.K. are suggesting that when people are bored, their political views become more extreme.

    Feeling bored, although a passing state, can be frustrating. It can also inspire people to search for more meaning in their lives.

    One way to feel more fulfilled is to double down on one’s political views, said lead researcher Wijnand van Tilburg from King’s College, London, and The University of Limerick.

    He and his colleagues had one group of people copy references to literature about concrete.

    “And they had to do this over and over again,” van Tilburg said. “So, in this particular condition, we really made people extremely bored.”

    What they found was that people who usually considered themselves somewhat liberal became very liberal after that task. The same was true for conservatives. Van Tilburg said the test subjects’ beliefs just intensified.

    Keep in mind, the research didn’t focus on hyper extreme views, it was about a shift in one’s own prior political orientation. Of course, boredom is just one factor among many that can contribute to that process.

    “By no means is boredom the only reason, or even the primary reason, why people may radicalize,” van Tilburg said, adding that the process depends on many variables.

    While connecting more strongly with politics is way to feel more fulfilled, he suggested that encouraging people to revel in a nostalgic, happy memory could counteract this trend.

    So don’t go thinking that the best way to get out of a political argument during the upcoming DNC is to simply give your sparring partner a good book to read — though it might be worth a try.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.