The paper, which was co-authored by Wijnand van Tilburg and Dr Eric Igou, set out to investigate the link between boredom and prosocial behaviour.
Interestingly they found that bored individuals who considered their actions to be meaningless became motivated to seek out meaningful empathetic behaviour, even if it happened to be an unpleasant act such as giving blood.
The paper, which is to be presented at the British Psychological Society 2011 Annual Conference found that instead of turning to activities which are either fun or distracting when they feel meaningless, individuals seek out something which will re-establish their significance instead.
“Boredom makes people long for different and purposeful activities, and as a result they turn towards more challenging and meaningful activities, turning towards what they perceive to be really meaningful in life,” said Van Tilburg. “Donating to charity or signing up for blood donations could not have increased the level of stimulation, interest, arousal, novelty, fun, or challenge experienced during the boring activity, simply because the boring activity finished before prosocial behaviour was assessed,” he said. “Therefore, we show that boredom affects attitudes and behaviour even after the boring activity, if people have not had the chance to re-establish meaningfulness”.
Van Tilburg said that this research suggests boredom can promote positive behaviour in society, though he did stress that boredom is not necessary for prosocial behaviour and is it simply a positive effect of a negative experience.
View the original Guardian article.