Monday, September 26, 2022

Recently, scientists made an interesting discovery about boredom. Apparently, there is so little left for scientists to do that they’re down to discovering new types of boredom.

“Ooh, look! There’s another!”

“What? Sorry, I drifted off.”

I should mention that this study took place in Germany.

See, when they began the study, they thought there were four types of boredom. But while they were studying them, they came upon a fifth type. This is the kind of thing that happens when you study boredom. By the end of the study, most of the researchers had changed career paths.

They also published a paper that no one has been able to get through in one sitting.

Scientists have been theorizing since the 1930s that there were many different types of boredom. But no one cared. Finally, about seven years ago, study author Dr. Thomas Goetz and his team began looking into the effects of boredom on everyday life. The only downside is that they have no one to talk to at parties, because they start talking about boredom, and people keep making excuses to jump out the window.

Basically, the scientists, after a lot of discussion, decided to classify the various types of boring by how they make people react and how they make people feel.

For example, the first type of boredom is Indifferent Boredom. That’s when you’re bored, but you don’t really care that you’re bored. It doesn’t bother you. It’s like when you’re nodding when someone’s talking about something boring, but you’re still laughing periodically and saying, “Yeah,” while hoping they’ll be done quickly. It’s like hanging out with your grandmother. Or it’s like when you go to your fifth kid’s siddur play.

Yeah, yeah, I know how it ends. He gets a siddur. “Spoiler alert.”

The second type, Calibrating Boredom, is where your thoughts start wandering to other things, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to actually do those things. It’s kind of like when you tell your kid to get in pajamas, and he doesn’t hear you, even though he’s right there. He’s thinking about lollipops. Or like when your wife is telling you what she needs you to do, and you’re thinking about what you need to do after your wife stops talking.

The third type, Searching Boredom, leaves you “actively seeking out specific ways of minimizing feelings of boredom.” Searching boredom is what makes you look through the fridge 10 times when you’re not hungry to see if new food has materialized since the last time you looked in the fridge.

The fourth type of boredom is Reactant Boredom, which is so bad that it gets people “to leave the boredom-inducing situation and avoid those responsible for this situation.” Basically, reactant boredom is hating school, because even though it’s where your friends are, it’s also where your teachers are. You can always hang out with your friends outside of school, but your teacher doesn’t suddenly continue his lecture every time he sees you on the street. (“There are MORE kinds of math problems? I didn’t even like the ones I knew about!”)

So the fifth boredom, which they just discovered, is being called “Apathetic Boredom.”

They discovered this as the result of a two-week study. I don’t want to go into all the boring details of the study here, but I think we have to. So hold on to something.

To conduct the study, scientists brought in volunteers and told them to wait in a little room for the study to begin. Then the scientists stood behind glass and watched them. For two weeks straight.

Okay, that’s not what happened, because if it did, everyone would’ve experienced the same kind of boredom. So instead, they studied people for whom boredom is a part of their everyday lives—teenagers. Students.

OK, students learn important things, but the point is they don’t want to. They’re like a baby you want to feed peas to, and he keeps turning his head, so you’re sticking the spoon in his ear. Except that with students, you’re aiming for the ears. But they keep turning their heads. So you get the knowledge all over their faces and clothing and they fling some of it back in your face, but none of it gets in their ears. Most of it ends up on the floor.

The researchers gave 143 students a small electronic device which went off randomly about six times a day. At that point, the students would have to fill out a questionnaire about what they were in middle of doing and how they were feeling about it. If they reported boredom, they were then asked how it felt to be bored. Which is kind of like when people walk up to a kid at a bar mitzvah and go, “How does it feel to be bar mitzvah?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been a teenager for five seconds. Boring, I guess.”

And it turns out that 36 percent of high school boredom is actually Apathetic Boredom.

Apathetic Boredom is what the researchers define as “learned helplessness,” where you do what you have to because you see no way out. Basically, it’s realizing that the only way you can have a small electronic device on school grounds is if you take a pop quiz six times a day.

But we definitely need to know the various types of boredom. As Goetz said, “For parents, it is very important to know what types of boredom their children experience.” So when our kids are bored, we can ask them what type of bored they are, and how it makes them feel, thereby teaching them a lesson about telling us that they’re bored.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has four books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]


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