Study: Boredom breeds political extremism

"These studies indicate that political views are, in part, based on boredom," said psychologist Eric Igou.

By Brooks Hays

LONDON, July 7 (UPI) -- Psychologists say boredom may be pushing voters to the edges of the political spectrum. In a series of experiments and surveys, researchers found boredom fostered more extreme political positions.

In their initial experiment, a team of psychologists from King's College London and the University of Limerick recruited a group of 97 students from a university in Ireland. Participants were asked to declare their political disposition -- liberal or conservative -- prior to the experiment.


Participants were then randomly assigned to complete a boring task, transcribe 10 references about concrete mixing, or a slightly less boring task, transcribe two concrete-mixing references.

Afterward, participants once again stated their political orientation, this time rated on a seven-point scale. Those assigned the more boring task tended to declare higher numbers, though the trend was only statistically significant for participants who declared themselves liberal.

In two large subsequent surveys -- each boasting several hundred respondents -- participants who were prone to boredom tended to adopt more extreme political ideas.

"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," Eric Igou, from the University of Limerick, said in a news release.


"The implications of these findings are obvious," Igou continued. "Possibly politically radicalized 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."

Wijnand van Tilburg, from King's College London, qualified the findings by acknowledging that their research can't measure exactly how large a role boredom plays in influencing a person's political persuasion.

"Political orientations, or the political climate in general, is of course a complex phenomenon influenced by many variables," van Tilburg said. "Our research tested and found that boredom is one of them, but we did not fully test how big its role is."

The authors say further research is needed to understand how different contexts and circumstances might affect the influence of boredom.

The latest findings were published this week in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

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