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Eaten Up by Boredom: Consuming Food to Escape Awareness of the Bored Self

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Research indicates that being bored affectively marks an appraised lack of meaning in the present situation and in life. We propose that state boredom increases eating in an attempt to distract from this experience, especially among people high in objective self-awareness. Three studies were conducted to investigate boredom's effects on eating, both naturally occurring in a diary study and manipulated in two experiments. In Study 1, a week-long diary study showed that state boredom positively predicted calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and protein consumption. In Study 2, a high (vs. low) boredom task increased the desire to snack as opposed to eating something healthy, especially amongst those participants high in objective self-awareness. In addition, Study 3 demonstrated that among people high in objective self-awareness, high (vs. low) boredom increased the consumption of less healthy foods and the consumption of more exciting, healthy foods. However, this did not extend to unexciting, healthy food. Collectively, these novel findings signify the role of boredom in predicting maladaptive and adaptive eating behaviors as a function of the need to distant from the experience of boredom. Further, our results suggest that more exciting, healthy food serves as alternative to maladaptive consumption following boredom.
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ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 01 April 2015
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00369
Edited by:
Marcel Zentner,
University of Innsbruck, Austria
Reviewed by:
Katy Tapper,
City University London, UK
Mark Hallahan,
College of the Holy Cross, USA
*Correspondence:
Andrew B. Moynihan,
SOCO-UL Lab, Department of
Psychology, Education & Health
Sciences Faculty, Main Building,
University of Limerick, Castletroy,
Limerick, Ireland
andrew.moynihan@ul.ie
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Personality and Social Psychology, a
section of the journal Frontiers in
Psychology
Received: 18 November 2014
Accepted: 16 March 2015
Published: 01 April 2015
Citation:
Moynihan AB, van Tilburg WAP, Igou
ER, Wisman A, Donnelly AE and
Mulcaire JB (2015) Eaten up by
boredom: consuming food to escape
awareness of the bored self.
Front. Psychol. 6:369.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00369
Eaten up by boredom: consuming
food to escape awareness of the
bored self
Andrew B. Moynihan1*,Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg2,Eric R. Igou1,Arnaud Wisman3,
Alan E. Donnelly4and Jessie B. Mulcaire5
1SOCO-UL Lab, Department of Psychology, Education & Health Sciences Faculty, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland,
2Centre for Research on Self and Identity, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK, 3School of
Psychology, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, 4Centre for Physical Activity and Health Research, Physical
Education and Sport Sciences Department, Education & Health Sciences Faculty, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland,
5School of Medicine, University of St. Andrews, Fife, UK
Research indicates that being bored affectively marks an appraised lack of meaning in
the present situation and in life. We propose that state boredom increases eating in
an attempt to distract from this experience, especially among people high in objective
self-awareness. Three studies were conducted to investigate boredom’s effects on
eating, both naturally occurring in a diary study and manipulated in two experiments.
In Study 1, a week-long diary study showed that state boredom positively predicted
calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and protein consumption. In Study 2, a high (vs. low)
boredom task increased the desire to snack as opposed to eating something healthy,
especially amongst those participants high in objective self-awareness. In addition,
Study 3 demonstrated that among people high in objective self-awareness, high (vs.
low) boredom increased the consumption of less healthy foods and the consumption of
more exciting, healthy foods. However, this did not extend to unexciting, healthy food.
Collectively, these novel findings signify the role of boredom in predicting maladaptive
and adaptive eating behaviors as a function of the need to distant from the experience
of boredom. Further, our results suggest that more exciting, healthy food serves as
alternative to maladaptive consumption following boredom.
Keywords: boredom, self-awareness, individual differences, sensation-seeking, unhealthy eating, meaning
Introduction
Recent studies have highlighted that general measures of negative affect may not be strongly asso-
ciated with eating behaviors (Evers et al., 2010;Adriaanse et al., 2011;Haedt-Matt and Keel, 2011).
However, specific types of negative affect seem to play a more important role in understanding
some food consumption (Goldenberg et al., 2005). One likely, less researched affective predictor of
eating behavior is boredom (Koball et al., 2012). Boredom has been implicated in the current obe-
sity epidemic and eating behavior (World Health Organization-Europe, 2007). Eating when bored
follows a psychological process that is distinct from those prompted by other negative states in the
sense that boredom has been found to predict eating behaviors independently of other negative
emotions. Specifically, boredom continues to be an important predictor of eating behaviors after
controlling for other affective states (Koball et al., 2012). This suggests that boredom can help to
explain some eating behavior (Cleobury and Tapper, 2014). Recent theories suggest that eating in
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
response to boredom may be a meaning-regulation response
(Wisman, 2006), unlike what happens regarding some other
negative emotions (Van Tilburg and Igou, 2011). However, the
literature on boredom and eating has not yet established a causal
relationship between state boredom, a relatively recent psycho-
logically examined construct, and eating.
Boredom is a discrete emotion that associates with feeling dis-
satisfied, restless, and unchallenged when one interprets actions
and situations at the present time as purposeless (e.g., Leary et al.,
1986;Mikulas and Vodanovich, 1993;Barbalet, 1999;Fahlman
et al., 2009;Van Tilburg and Igou, 2011, 2012). When one is
bored, situations receive low attention due to lack of interest or
stimulation coming from one’s immediate environment (Sansone
et al., 1992). Essentially, the emotional experience of boredom
signals that a current situation is devoid of purpose (Barbalet,
1999;Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012). Following meaning threats,
people are motivated to re-establish a sense of purpose in their
engagement or turn to behaviors that they deem more meaning-
ful. Indeed, boredom is a meaning threat (Barbalet, 1999;Va n
Tilburg and Igou, 2012) and triggers responses aimed at rein-
stating a sense of purpose. For example, Van Tilburg and Igou
(2011) found that boredom increased people’s valuations of their
in-groups and devaluation of out-groups, key sources of mean-
ing (Heine et al., 2006). Similarly, people sometimes engage in
nostalgic reverie to counteract the lack of meaning signaled by
boredom (Van Tilburg et al., 2013). Specifically, boredom serves
the self-regulatory function of redirecting people’s cognitions and
behaviors toward mitigating the lack of meaning at hand (Van
Tilburg and Igou, 2012).
In the context of a compromised sense of meaningfulness, as
signaled by boredom, different types of responses, relevant to
health behaviors, have been implicated (Goldenberg and Arndt,
2008;Arndt and Goldenberg, 2010). When people face a chal-
lenge to perceived meaning, they may attempt to escape from
their sense of self-awareness and hence are distracted from such
threats completely. Therefore, the conflict between the desired
sense of meaningfulness and the acute lack of it is removed by
losing one’s sense of self-awareness. This is a common, though
short-term reaction to lacking perceived meaning. Examples of
means to avoid this aversive self-awareness include engaging in
unhealthy behaviors that are ultimately harmful. For example,
foodhelpstoescapeasenseofaversiveself-awareness(Wisman,
2006) and may hence be used to cope with boredom. The excite-
ment or stimulation certain foods offer may help to distract
people’s attention from the bored self. Indeed, obesity is more
prevalent among those who regularly experience boredom, com-
pared with other negative states (Abramson and Stinson, 1977).
Consistently, boredom has been correlated with various eating
disorders (Ganley, 1989).
Similarly, objective self-awareness theory (e.g., Duval and
Wicklund, 1972;Gollwitzer and Wicklund, 1985) suggests that
people become more aware of discrepancies between the present
and ideal self when the self is the focus of attention. This
is a different phenomenon than mindfulness, which involves
changing how one becomes aware of one’s thoughts and experi-
ences that are seen as less real, personal, vivid, and compelling,
and perceiving them as transient events (Papies et al., 2015).
Bored people note the lack of purpose in their current state
and how this contrasts from their ideal of engaging in pur-
poseful activities (Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012). This inconsis-
tency is aversive, motivating action to reduce the discrepancy.
If people are unable to do so by doing something that gives
them a sense of meaning (e.g., bolstering cultural worldviews
and ideologies), they become likely to focus on reducing or
avoiding the self-focus. Again, one way of avoiding aversive
self-related thoughts is by ‘escaping from self-awareness,’ for
example, by eating or other behaviors that involve a loss of
self-awareness such as affiliation (Heatherton and Baumeister,
1991;Wisman and Koole, 2003;Wisman, 2006). These behav-
iors shift focus from the self-regulatory challenge to acute
sensations.
Thus, we suggest that the state of aversive self-awareness
when bored can motivate people to escape the self. If bore-
dom leads to eating, then this effect may in part be understood
as an attempt to reduce self-awareness as a means to escape
the self-regulatory discrepancy. Further, we reason that people
high in dispositional self-awareness, that is, people who grav-
itate to introspection easily, would be particularly vulnerable
to the aversive self-discrepancies. Since eating distracts people
from unpleasant self-awareness associated with lacking meaning
(Gerrard et al., 2008), people especially high in self-awareness
should engage in eating when they experience boredom.
Our current research is designed to go beyond previous
research, analyzing food choices people make in relation to state
boredom. These predictions were examined in a series of three
studies. Study 1 used a diary procedure examining state bore-
dom and food intake. State boredom was manipulated in Studies
2 and 3 and consumption intentions and behavior were measured
whilst examining self-awareness as critical moderator. Further, in
Study 3, we investigated whether boredom can promote eating
more exciting, healthier foods, as more adaptive eating behavior
than indulging in less healthy foods. Boredom encourages people
to seek sensation (e.g., Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012), therefore,
we argue that more ‘exciting’ food serves as a potent distraction
of self-regulatory challenges for example by providing an intense
appearance or taste (McGregor et al., 2012). Consequently, the
current research tested if the negative effects of boredom on eat-
ing behaviors would be counteracted by offering more exciting,
yet healthy foods. We expected that bored people would eat cer-
tain foods as a function of escaping from aversive self-awareness
associated with the meaning threat. Indeed, self-awareness is
necessary to perceive that one is experiencing meaning threats
(Wisman, 2006).
Our three studies adopted different methodological
approaches (diary study, experimental) in which eating was
assessed differently (self-reported, behavioral). By examining
the link between boredom and eating from these different
angles, limitations associated with one particular approach
were addressed with another methodology. For example, the
diary study offered a window in real-life settings which were
complemented by test of causal relations available through lab
experimentation. All studies were approved by the University
of Limerick’s education and health sciences research ethics
committee.
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Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
Study 1: A Behavioral Diary Study:
Boredom Increases Unhealthy Eating
In this study, we used a 1-week long diary procedure to exam-
ine the relationship between state boredom and food intake. We
predicted that boredom was positively associated with increased
intake of food as indicated by increases in energy, fats, carbohy-
drates, and proteins.
Method
Participants and Design
Thirty-three people from Limerick city, Ireland (Mage =50.30,
SD =10.81; 30 women, 3 men; MBMI =24.96, SD =5.37, range:
17.07–43.40) took part in a diary study across 7 days. Participants
were recruited from the general population by distributing adver-
tisements in the local area.
Materials and Procedure
Participants received a folder with the paper-and-pencil materials
of the diary study sorted by day. On the first day and after giving
informed consent, participants reported demographic informa-
tion as well as height and weight. Further, they were instructed
how and when to complete the diaries each day. Participants then
completed a shortened version of the ‘boredom proneness scale’
(Gordon et al., 1997). This scale assessed individual differences in
the proclivity to experience boredom (12 items, e.g., “It is easy for
me to concentrate on my activities”; 1 =not at all,7=very much;
α=0.66). Trait boredom proneness is psychologically different
from state boredom (Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012). This scale was
included to verify that state boredom prompted increased eating
of certain food groups above and beyond any influence of trait
boredom.
This was followed by the ‘Positive and Negative Affect Scale’
short-form (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988), which probed nega-
tive and positive affect with five items for each construct (e.g.,
upset; 1 =very slightly or notatall,5=extremely;αpositive =0.70,
αnegative =0.71). Participants were asked to answer this scale
based on how they felt in general.
On each evening, participants first responded to three separate
items developed by the research team assessing state boredom,
stress, and enjoyment experienced during that day (e.g., “How
boring was your day?,” “Did you have a stressful day?,” “Did
you have an enjoyable day?”; 1 =not at all,7=alot). These
items were taken from existing reliable and valid measures to
fit the current diary study context (Van Tilburg and Igou, 2011,
2012). Next, participants kept track of their food and drink intake
using the 7-days EPIC-Norfolk diary (Bingham et al., 2001).
This diary consists of a booklet with separate sections for each
day. Participants were requested to be as detailed as possible in
their records and the booklets contained color pictures of vari-
ous food types and amounts to aid the assessment of portions.
Studies assessing the amount and types of different food groups
and products consumed attest to the validity and reliability of
this measure based on correlations with potassium, nitrogen,
and sodium in urine secretion content and weighed records
(Bingham et al., 1997;McKeown et al., 2001). Listed consump-
tions were decoded into daily amounts of energy (kilocalories),
fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and protein (grams) using the aids to cal-
culation of food composition provided by McGuire and Beerman
(2007).
Results
Considering the multilevel structure of the data (i.e., multiple
days nested ‘within’ participants), data was first disaggregated.
Conducting this technique resulted in 231 part-dependent obser-
vations (i.e., seven observations for each of the 33 participants).
With the exception of the food content variables, all variables
were standardized. When using regression-based analyses (mul-
tiple regression analysis, simple slope analysis, some multilevel
analysis), it is important to standardize variables. This prevents
multicollinearity when using interaction terms (Tabachnick and
Fidell, 2008). Further, the strength of the covariates correlations
with each other and with boredom ranged from small to medium
strength (Maximum: 0.65, Minimum: 0.60). Therefore, there
was no problematic multicollinearity. Subsequent analysis con-
sisted of restricted maximum likelihood random-intercept multi-
level analyses in which participants were specified as a grouping
variable, hence accounting for dependency of observations. To
examine the impact of state boredom on dietary choices, partic-
ipants’ daily level of boredom was specified as predictor of the
various food contents, with covariates added to more complex
models.
Variables were entered into the model based on their relevance
or interest to the current study. Specifically, state boredom, the
central variable of interest, was entered as the predictor in the
first models, and then the other predictors were added in the
subsequent models.
Energy
Energy consumption was operationalized as kilocalorie content.
As reflected in Ta b l e 1 (Model 1), state boredom was signifi-
cantly positively associated with energy consumption, λ=98.69,
Se=35.90, t(215.55) =2.76, p<0.01. This indicated that when
participants’ level of boredom rose by its standard deviation,
1.585, the equivalent energy content of one additional scram-
bled egg or banana, approximately an extra 100 calories, was
consumed.
The association with daily boredom remained after addi-
tionally controlling for the other variables, dispositional bore-
dom, positive affect, negative affect, stress and body mass index,
λ=123.78, Se=39.77, t(179.19) =3.11, p<0.01 (Model 2).
Fats
In Tab l e 1 (Model 1), it can be seen that state boredom was
significantly positively associated with the consumption of fats,
λ=5.25, Se=1.69, t(215.50) =3.11, p<0.01. This result indi-
cated that, on average, with every standard deviation increase
in boredom, approximately five additional grams of fat were
consumed, equivalent to the fat content of one biscuit. This rela-
tionship was also found after controlling for the other variables,
λ=6.15, Se=1.88, t(177.19) =3.28, p<0.01 (Model 2).
Carbohydrates
As shown in Tab l e 1 (Model 1), state boredom was signifi-
cantly, positively associated with carbohydrate intake, λ=9.81,
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Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
TABLE 1 | Daily consumption of food types as a function of state boredom (Study 1).
State boredom State enjoyment State stress Boredom proneness Positive affect Negative affect BMI
Energy λSeλSeλSeλSeλSeλSeλSe
Model 1 98.64∗∗ 35.69
Model 2 123.78∗∗ 39.77 135.87∗∗ 44.68 1.15 43.94 33.68 90.77 16.53 87.18 56.77 85.20 24.78 77.59
Fat
Model 1 5.25∗∗ 1.69
Model 2 6.15∗∗ 1.88 4.672.12 1.17 2.08 1.06 4.62 3.30 4.44 4.22 4.34 3.36 3.96
Carbohydrate
Model 1 9.814.64
Model 2 11.105.20 12.325.83 3.61 5.74 1.19 11.30 1.73 10.85 2.01 10.61 3.22 9.65
Protein
Model 1 3.521.78
Model 2 4.891.99 5.682.23 0.99 2.20 2.81 4.49 0.56 4.31 3.16 4.21 1.05 3.83
Fiber
Model 1 0.23 0.59
Model 2 0.09 0.66 0.21 0.52 0.31 0.44 0.04 1.66 1.22 1.60 0.52 1.56 0.93 1.42
p<0.05; ∗∗p<0.01.
Se=4.64, t(215.92) =2.12, p=0.04. This result indicated that,
on average, with every standard deviation increase in boredom,
approximately ten additional grams of carbohydrates were con-
sumed, equivalent to the carbohydrate content of a packet of
sweets. This association remained after controlling for the other
variables, λ=11.10, Se=5.20, t(180.28) =2.13, p=0.03
(Model 2).
Proteins
In Tab l e 1 (Model 1), it is shown that state boredom was sig-
nificantly positively associated with the amount of protein con-
sumed, λ=3.52, Se=1.78, t(215.96) =2.00, p=0.05. This result
indicated that, on average, with every standard deviation increase
in boredom, approximately three-and-a-half additional grams of
protein were consumed, equivalent to the protein content of a
cup of mushrooms. Again, the results remained much the same
when controlling for the other variables, λ=4.89, Se=1.99,
t(179.47) =2.46, p=0.02 (Model 2).
Fibers
In contrast to the other content indexes, state boredom was not
significantly associated with the consumption of fiber, λ=−0.23,
Se=0.59, t(214.04) =0.39, p=0.70, as shown in Tab l e 1 (Model
1), a relation that remained non-significant when controlling for
the other variables, λ=−0.09, Se=0.66, t(176.84) =0.13,
p=0.89 (Model 2).
Discussion
Consistent with our predictions, state boredom was associated
with a greater energy intake, as well as the consumption of
higher quantities of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Each of
these associations remained significant after controlling for stress,
enjoyment, and individual differences in boredom proneness,
positive affect, negative affect, and body mass index. Also, the
impact of these individual differences was not significant.
These findings demonstrate that state boredom indeed relates
to higher levels of consumption including fats and carbohydrates,
energy-dense food groups most relevant to the obesity epidemic
(World Health Organization-Europe, 2007). From our review
of the literature, we suspect that this is the first study which
has demonstrated overconsumption of particular food groups in
response to state boredom.
Study 2: The Role of Self-Awareness in
Boredom and Snacking Desire
A major benefit of Study 1 was that it examined boredom’s rela-
tionship with eating behaviors in ‘real-life’ settings. However,
the diary method limited testing the causal structure of this
relationship. Therefore, our next study tested the causal relation-
ship between boredom and eating behavior in a more controlled
context. We designed Study 2 to manipulate boredom and to
test the proposed effect of boredom on food preferences at dif-
ferent levels of objective self-awareness. Our hypothesis was
that unhealthy eating would function as an escape from aver-
sive self-awareness associated with boredom (Wisman, 2006).
Earlier research has suggested that self-awareness required for
self-regulation after meaning threats may be compromised as it
highlights deficiencies in the self (Twenge et al., 2003;Baumeister
et al., 2005). Further, objective self-awareness is an individ-
ual difference (Baumeister, 1991). Accordingly, we expected
that especially among those participants high on trait levels of
objective self-awareness, high levels of boredom would facili-
tate temptations to snack on less healthy foods compared to
those low in self-awareness and those in the low boredom
condition.
Self-report measures were used to assess these food choices.
By using short self-report measures (rather than elaborate diaries
or actual eating behavior), Study 2’s hypothesis was tested in a
larger sample, not hindered by more demanding methodological
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 4April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
requirements, to control demand characteristics and item redun-
dancy.
Method
Participants and Design
Seventy-nine students (Mage =19.68, SD =2.32; 33 women, 46
men) of the University of Limerick, Ireland participated in Study
2 in return for partial course credits or €3. They were assigned
to one of two conditions of a between subjects design (boredom:
high vs. low). This study’s population was changed from Study 1.
We did this to generalize findings to other populations (Larson
and Richards, 1991).
Pilot Study
Importantly, whereas prior studies have manipulated boredom by
varying the duration of involvement in a dull activity (e.g., Van
Tilburg and Igou, 2011;Van Tilburg et al., 2013), we attempted
to keep the task duration comparable across the two studies. For
this purpose, a novel boredom induction task was used, based on
a pilot study. This task consisted of a simple puzzle in which par-
ticipants had to connect different objects while adhering to basic
rules. In the low boredom condition, several depicted cows and
chickens needed to be connected, by drawing a line, to a trough
or coop, respectively. Drawn ‘paths’ were not to cross, there was a
limit to the amount of animals connected to each trough or coop,
and several dotted lines called ‘canals’ could not be crossed. In
the high boredom condition, the puzzle was identical except that
the cows, chickens, troughs, and coops were replaced with cir-
cles, rectangles, triangles, and squares, respectively. Based on past
research, we anticipated the latter variation to be less engaging,
and therefore to solicit boredom (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975/2000;
Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012).
Fifteen students from the University of Limerick worked on
both puzzles and evaluated task boredom (“How boring is this
task?”; 1 =not at all,7=very much,Van Tilburg and Igou,
2012).The high boredom version was considered more boring
(M=5.33, SD =1.18) than the low boredom version (M=3.80,
SD =1.97), t(14) =3.44, p<0.01, d=0.94.
Materials and Procedure
After giving informed consent and providing demographic
details, participants completed the eight-item objective self-
awareness measure from the self-consciousness scale (Fenigstein
et al., 1975; e.g., “I generally pay attention to my inner feelings”;
1=notatall,7=very much;α=0.74). This measure was
followed by the boredom induction task.
Previous research shows that snacking is associated with less
nutritious food (Adriaanse et al., 2011). In addition, people gen-
erally try to abide by a societal norm to act healthily, which may
be hampered by snacking (Goldenberg et al., 2005). Therefore, as
a measurement of unhealthy consumption, participants indicated
their desire to snack after the puzzle (“Do you feel like snack-
ing right now?”; 1 =not at all,7=very much)aswellastheir
wish to eat healthy (“Do you feel like eating something healthy
right now?,” 1 =not at all,7=very much). These two items were
developed by the research team. Afterward, participants were
thanked and debriefed.
Results and Discussion
After standardizing the aggregated objective self-awareness
scores and effect coding the boredom induction (1=low,
1=high), these variables and their interaction were entered as
predictors of participants’ reported snacking desires in an ordi-
nary least squares regression analysis. The results of this analysis
evidenced the predicted significant interaction between the bore-
dom induction and objective self-awareness, B=0.48, Se=0.24,
t(75) =2.00, p=0.05, as well as a significant partial effect of
self-awareness, B=0.62, Se=0.24, t(75) =2.59, p=0.01, and a
non-significant partial effect of the boredom induction, B=0.22,
Se=0.23, t(75) =0.96,p=0.34.
As illustrated in Figure 1, these results indicate that the
amplification of snacking desire under high boredom is more
pronounced among those high in objective self-awareness rel-
ative to those low in objective self-awareness. When probing
the interaction (Hayes, 2012,Model1),nosignicantassocia-
tion between objective self-awareness and snacking desire was
found among those in the low boredom condition, B=0.14,
Se=0.29, t(75) =0.49, p=0.62. However, there was a signif-
icant positive relationship between these two constructs in the
high boredom condition, B=1.10, Se=0.38, t(75) =2.88,
p<0.01. These results indicate that boredom fosters the
desire to snack, especially among those high in objective
self-awareness.
The results of the healthy eating analysis evidenced no signif-
icant interaction between the boredom induction and objective
self-awareness, B=−0.12, Se=0.20, t(75) =0.61, p=0.55, no
significant partial effect of self-awareness, B=0.07, Se=0.20,
t(75) =0.34, p=0.74, and also no significant partial effect of the
boredom induction, B=0.19, Se=0.19, t(75) =1.02, p=0.31.
Overall, Study 2 demonstrated that state boredom promotes
a desire to snack, typically less healthy foods (Adriaanse et al.,
2011). The maladaptive eating tendency was especially present
among those participants high on objective self-awareness. This
finding is consistent with the hypothesis that boredom—which
emotionally signals a lack of meaning (Van Tilburg and Igou,
FIGURE 1 | Snacking desire by boredom and objective self-awareness
(Study 2).
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 5April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
2011, 2012;Van Tilburg et al., 2013)—increases the desire to eat
unhealthily, especially among people with high objective self-
awareness. Moreover, no effects were observed for the desire
to eat healthier foods, suggesting that boredom does not sim-
ply increase any consumption, but it promotes more unhealthy
consumption in particular.
Study 3: Boredom Specificity and the
Choice of Eating Healthy Foods
In Study 3, we extended the previous studies’ findings by offering
participants actual food choices. Further, offering food choices
helped to clarify if self-awareness moderates actually acting upon
the desire for snacking rather than mere awareness of a desire
for snacking. Moreover, boredom specificity was tested against
another negative experience, sadness, to rule out that the effects
on eating behavior were based on general negative affect repair
motivations. Indeed, boredom and sadness have been found
to have distinct relationships with eating in previous research
(Koball et al., 2012).
We gave participants the choice not only between a healthy vs.
less healthy food option, but also a more ‘exciting’ healthy alter-
native. This was done because seeking stimulation is a distinctive
aspect of boredom (Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012). The reason why
unhealthy eating is used by bored people to escape from self-
awareness may stem from the fact that particularly unhealthy
food tends to be more exciting and stimulating. In contrast,
healthier food is typically more boring (Craeynest et al., 2008).
Importantly, if this excitement factor indeed provides unhealthy
food its ego-escape utility, then also relatively exciting alterna-
tives that are nonetheless healthy should appeal to those who are
bored.
We predicted that among those high in objective self-
awareness, boredom would solicit preferences for the less healthy
snack. In addition, we expected that the more exciting, healthy
alternative would similarly be preferred among bored partici-
pants high in objective self-awareness.
Method
Participants and Design
Forty-four students (Mage =20.48, SD =3.12; 31 women, 13
men) of the University of Limerick, Ireland were assigned to one
of the two conditions of a between subjects design (boredom vs.
sadness) in exchange for €4.
Pilot Study
In a pilot test, fourteen students from the University of Limerick
indicated the excitement of the foods using one item (e.g., “These
[crackers] are exciting”; 1 =notatall,7=very much). Both
the unhealthy sweets (M=5.07, SD =1.90) and the relatively
healthy cherry tomatoes (M=4.07, SD =1.98) were considered
to be more exciting food compared to the relatively healthy crack-
ers (M=2.36, SD =1.34), t(13) =5.59, p<0.001, d=1.65,
and t(13) =2.43, p=0.03, d=1.01, respectively. The tomatoes
and sweets did not significantly differ in perceived levels of their
excitement, t(13) =1.36, p=0.20, d=0.52. Although this latter
effect size was not trivial, it was much smaller than the difference
in excitement judgments between crackers and sweets or toma-
toes (d=1.65, d=1.01, respectively). Further, previous literature
suggests that tomatoes and sweets have more exciting properties
than crackers (Craeynest et al., 2008). Previous research also sug-
gests that tomatoes and crackers are perceived as healthier than
sweets (Verhoeven et al., 2012). Thus, participants in the main
study had a choice of foods that varied in their healthiness as well
as how exciting they were considered to be.
Materials and Procedure
After giving informed consent and providing demographic
details, participants were seated in a research laboratory and
worked on a computer-based study. They first completed the
objective self-awareness scale (Fenigstein et al., 1975)asin
Study 2 (α=0.72). Next, participants watched a 15 min
movie extract. In the high boredom condition, this movie con-
sisted of an instruction how to set up a successful ‘fish farm-
ing’ enterprise, covering themes ranging from selecting suitable
species and cages, to water quality and existing aqua cultur-
ists’ entrepreneurial insights. The sadness condition also covered
water life, but focused on the topic of dolphin abuse specifically.
Prior to watching the movie clip, participants were instructed
that they could eat as many or as few of the food provided as
wanted during the course of the movie. Each participant received
three bowls containing 10 cherry tomatoes, sweets, and crackers,
respectively. None of the participants indicated to have allergies
to any of these products or their content when prompted. All food
consumption in Study 3 was measured by counting the remaining
snacks following the experiment to assess the amount consumed
for each food type.
When the movie clip ended, participants subsequently rated
how boring and sad the movie was (e.g., “How boring was this
movie?”; 1 =notatall,7=very much), and how bored and
sad they felt (e.g., “How bored do you feel?” 1 =not at all,
7=very much, Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012). Afterward, partic-
ipants reported demographics and were thanked, debriefed, and
rewarded.
Results and Discussion
Relative to participants who watched a sad movie, those who
watched the boring video clip considered the movie itself as
more boring (M=5.00, SD =1.95, vs. M=1.57, SD =1.04),
F(1,42) =54.58, p<0.001, η2=0.57, and also felt more bored
(M=5.10, SD =1.84 vs. M=1.65, SD =0.94), F(1,42) =62.80,
p<0.001, η2=0.60.
Unhealthy Food: Sweets
After standardizing the aggregated objective self-awareness
scores and effect coding the movie manipulation (1=sad,
1=boring), these variables and their interaction were entered as
predictors of participants’ consumption of the unhealthy sweets
in an ordinary least squares regression analysis. The results of this
analysis evidenced the predicted significant interaction between
the boredom induction and objective self-awareness, B=0.27,
Se=0.11, t(40) =2.50, p=0.02, as well as a significant par-
tial effect of self-awareness, B=0.39, Se=0.11, t(40) =3.52,
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 6April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
p<0.01, and a non-significant partial effect of the boredom
induction, B=0.22, Se=0.23, t(75) =0.96, p=0.34. Probing
the interaction (Hayes, 2012, Model 1) revealed that objective
self-awareness was associated with more consumed sweets among
those who were exposed to the boring movie clip, B=0.66,
Se=0.18, t(40) =3.67, p<0.001. No significant association
was present among those who watched the sad movie, B=0.11,
Se=0.13,t(40) =0.89,p=0.38, (Figure 2A). Thus, the engage-
ment in a highly boring activity promoted the consumption of
relatively unhealthy sweets, among those participants high in
self-awareness.
Healthy Food: Crackers
An analysis similar to the above for the consumption of crackers,
the healthy yet unexciting food revealed no significant interaction
between the boredom induction and objective self-awareness,
B=0.08, Se=0.27, t(40) =0.31, p=0.76, no significant partial
effect of self-awareness, B=0.08, Se=0.27, t(40) =0.29, p=0.77,
and a non-significant partial effect of the boredom induction,
B=0.02, Se=0.25, t(40) =0.08, p=0.94. Thus, boredom did not
promote consumption of the unexciting, healthy food as was the
case for those who watched the sad movie, B=−0.00, Se =0.31,
t(40) =0.02, p=0.99.
Healthy Food: Cherry tomatoes
A similar analysis was conducted on the consumed cherry
tomatoes, a healthy and comparatively more ‘exciting’ food.
Intriguingly, a significant interaction between the boredom
induction and objective self-awareness emerged, B=0.52,
Se=0.22, t(40) =2.36, p=0.02, as well as a significant partial
effect of self-awareness, B=0.49, Se=0.22, t(40) =2.20, p=0.03,
and a non-significant partial effect of the boredom induction
B=−0.08, Se=0.21, t(40) =0.39, p=0.70 (Figure 2B).
Probing the interaction (Hayes, 2012, Model 1) revealed that,
objective self-awareness was associated with increased consump-
tion of cherry tomatoes among those who were exposed to the
boring movie clip, B=1.01, Se =0.36, t(40) =2.78, p<0.01. No
significant association was present among those who watched the
sad movie, B=−0.03, Se=0.25, t(40) =0.13, p=0.89.
Discussion
Study 3 indicated that boredom promotes preferences for less
healthy foods, consistent with the previous studies. As in Study 2,
this effect was more pronounced among participants high in self-
awareness. Importantly, however, boredom did not just evoke
unhealthy eating. Indeed, healthy, yet more exciting foods were
also consumed more among high objectively self-aware partici-
pants. To our knowledge, these findings have not been identified
in any previous research. We acknowledge that watching a movie
in a lab with accompanying food probably made participants
aware that food consumption was being investigated. However,
participants did not know that we related this to boredom (they
were unaware of the existence of two conditions) and we assessed
emotional experiences after the consumption behavior, essen-
tially ruling out any demand characteristics. Thus, it could be
FIGURE 2 | (A) Sweets consumption by boredom and objective
self-awareness (Study 3). (B) Tomato consumption by boredom and objective
self-awareness (Study 3).
argued that while some participants may have realized that the
studies investigated consumption behavior, they are unlikely to
have linked this to boredom in particular. These results support
the hypothesis that food choices based on boredom are a function
of peoples’ efforts to escape from self-awareness.
General Discussion
Study 1 showed significant, positive relations between state bore-
dom and calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and protein consumption.
These relations remained after controlling for stress, enjoyment,
and individual differences (e.g., boredom proneness, positive and
negative affect, body mass index).
In Study 2, we employed an experimental design and
consolidated Study 1 by examining choices between desires
to snack on healthy and less healthy food when bored. A
boredom manipulation increased the desire to snack, espe-
cially amongst those high in objective self-awareness. No
such role of objective self-awareness emerged for eating
healthily.
Study 3 further extended the findings by investigating bore-
dom’s effects on healthy and more exciting eating choices. In
addition, one of boredom’s unique consequences, desire for
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 7April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
sensation-seeking, was investigated (Van Tilburg and Igou, 2012).
The boredom manipulation increased snacking on sweets and
on healthy, more exciting foods (cherry tomatoes), especially
among participants high in objective self-awareness. No such
interaction emerged for eating healthy, yet unexciting foods.
Further, analyses revealed that significant effects were attributed
to boredom and no results emerged from sadness (Van Tilburg
and Igou, 2011, 2012). Therefore, Study 3 demonstrates that bore-
dom specifically encourages consumption of sensational foods
(see also Sommers and Vodanovich, 2000), healthy or unhealthy.
Overall, the empirical findings were derived across a variety
of methods and measures, providing convergent support for our
hypothesis. For example, the major benefit of using single-item
self-report measures in Study 2 comes with the limitation of short
self-report measures as main dependent variable. This limitation,
however, is in turn addressed by Studies 1 and 3. Collectively,
the studies indicate that boredom increases eating, specifically
unhealthy and exciting foods which can serve as means to escape
the bored self.
Our research supports and extends Wisman’s (2006) theory of
eating to escape aversive self-awareness to the domain of bore-
dom. This is particularly relevant for those with high levels of
self-awareness. By eating, bored people may regulate their self-
awareness to avoid threatening existential issues. Attention is
narrowed to the current and immediate stimulus environment
(Heatherton et al., 1991;O’Connor et al., 2008). This consump-
tion reduces self-awareness in which the meaning-threat posed
by boredom resides.
The key role of escape from self-awareness following bore-
dom (a meaning threat) is what we believe distinguishes this
process from solely self-regulatory failure (Vohs and Faber,
2007) and escape-control strategies formulated in earlier research
(often trait-like phenomena, relevant to general stress research;
Folkman et al., 1986). Previous research has suggested that the
capacity for self-control remains largely intact after experienc-
ing meaning-threats (Baumeister et al., 2005). However, an effort
to escape from aversive self-awareness and further impulsive-
ness associated with boredom (Dahlen et al., 2004) are likely to
reduce self-regulatory efforts. Thus, the process between bore-
dom and eating behaviors does not seem to be primarily due to a
breakdown in self-regulation but a voluntary, active escape from
aversive self-awareness.
It could be proposed that escape from self-awareness by
unhealthy eating is actually an attempt at hedonic mood repair
(Haedt-Matt and Keel, 2011;Loxton et al., 2011). Yet, research
strongly suggests that escape from self-awareness is a distinct pro-
cess. For example, the meaning-regulation strategies employed
following boredom are independent of negative affect (Va n
Tilburg and Igou, 2011, 2012, 2013). Indeed, the predicted effects
were obtained by controlling for negative affect (see Studies 1
and 3). Thus, it is unlikely that unhealthy eating as a function
of boredom is solely driven by hedonic affect regulation.
Furthermore, it has been reported that people experiencing
existential threats become temporarily numb to emotional pain
(DeWall and Baumeister, 2006;Twenge et al., 2007)andtheir
cognitive processes can constrict to focus narrowly on unthreat-
ening issues through the avoidance of self-focused attention
(Baumeister et al., 2005). Apparently, the immediate response too
many meaning-threatening experiences is a defensive, emotional
shutdown, which is why emotional distress fails to mediate these
behavioral consequences (Twenge et al., 2003). Further, it has
been argued that negative affect may later run parallel to these
experiences instead of mediating them (De Wall et al., 2010).
In sum, recent research findings on consequences of meaning
threats are consistent in the conclusion that negative affect does
not explain the increase in escape from self-awareness.
A limitation of Study 1’s diary design was its short time period.
It would be valuable to measure boredom and eating behaviors
over a longer period, accounting for how detailed daily assess-
ment may influence participants’ normal eating habits (O’Connor
et al., 2008). Future replications may wish to obtain physiolog-
ical data for concurrent validity. This would also facilitate the
study of some possible moderators such as hunger. In addition,
Study 1’s methodology to assess food intake would benefit from
using methods that do not entirely rely on self-report (e.g., obser-
vational studies). This would provide a better understanding of
exactly how many more calories are consumed in response to
boredom. Finally, Study 1’s sample mainly consisted of female
participants. Yet, there was better gender balance in the fol-
lowing studies suggesting that the phenomenon is generalizable.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that a number of health-related
variables could moderate these findings, as discussed later (e.g.,
dieting status; Goldenberg et al., 2005).
It could be suggested that Study 1’s findings could be inter-
preted alternatively. That is, participants were primed of Study
1’s purpose and adjusted their eating behaviors accordingly.
Likewise, bored people may have better memories for what they
consumed during as they were involved in less engaging activi-
ties. However, we believe that sufficient empirical evidence exists
in Studies 2 and 3 to indicate that the causal direction is likely
from experience of boredom to the consumption of foods high
in carbohydrates, fats, and sugars and not vice versa. Further,
these studies did not rely on recalled behaviors. Numerous exper-
imental studies demonstrate that meaning threats are associated
with unpleasant self-awareness and engaging in hedonic behav-
iors that avoid this focus (e.g., Arndt et al., 1998). Physiological
data from other studies lends convergent validity to these claims
(e.g., Newman et al., 2007). Further, diary studies have often
been shown to be reliable and valid measures of eating behaviors
(Bingham et al., 1995, 1997;O’Connor et al., 2008).
There are also several lines of research supporting the associa-
tion between negative affective states and food intake (Adriaanse
et al., 2011). In addition, recall biases generally effects trait mea-
sures of eating behaviors rather than state measures, as investi-
gated in this research. Ready et al. (2007) further note that it has
been shown that people can report recent affect with moderate
accuracy. A literature review also failed to identify any research
that suggests a plausible psychological or biological mechanism
that indicates that food consumption recall influences emotional
perceptions of one’s day (O’Connor et al., 2008).
The findings from our studies provide and interesting foun-
dation for future research in this field. Escaping the self through
unhealthy eating may only occur in specific circumstances such
as when one is highly self-aware. Future research could further
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 8April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
Moynihan et al. Eaten up by boredom
investigate how people low in objective self-awareness deal with
the problems associated with boredom. Some health-facilitating
experiences may also be threat-avoidance responses (e.g., flow;
Csikszentmihalyi, 1975/2000). Additionally, coping variables,
more common in certain genders, may moderate health deci-
sions (Arndt et al., 2006). Indeed, longitudinal replications will
help to verify under what circumstances bored people may choose
different strategies to escape from the self.
In addition, it is possible that different strategies are cho-
sen when different means of meaning-regulation are avail-
able simultaneously. Wisman (2006) postulates that those with
stronger, coherent worldviews or leanings may attempt to man-
age meaning-threats with worldview defense (Dechesne et al.,
2003;Van Tilburg and Igou, 2011). Those with weaker, less
coherent worldviews or those that feel incompetent to live up
the standards set by certain cultural norms may be left without
adequate resources to regulate meaning symbolically. Therefore,
the latter groups (e.g., individuals with low self-esteem) may be
more likely to attempt avoiding self-awareness through eating.
Thus, unhealthy eating or more generally unhealthy behaviors
in response to boredom may occur particularly when individuals
experience that symbolic resources are unavailable or insufficient
(Wisman, 2006).
Conclusion
The current findings support our hypothesis about how and
why eating may emerge from common experiences like boredom
(Koball et al., 2012). This hypothesis can be further examined
by future studies that address some of the points raised in our
Discussion. Unhealthy behavior may draw attention away from
the threatening, self-focused, existential experience that boredom
entails. Our results further demonstrated that boredom can pro-
mote eating healthy, more exciting foods by endorsing bored
people’s need for sensation-seeking. This fascinating finding has
great potential in dietary intervention designs (World Health
Organization-Europe, 2007;Adriaanse et al., 2009).
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was con-
ducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be
construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2015 Moynihan, van Tilburg, Igou, Wisman, Donnelly and Mulcaire.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums
is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the
original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic
practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply
with these terms.
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 10 April 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 369
... In Study 3, we investigated if the relationship between disbelief in free will and conformity is mediated by perceived meaninglessness (i.e., people conform in response to the perceived meaninglessness that comes with disbelief in free will), using a correlational design. We also measured individual differences in self-awareness in Study 3. In accordance with the literature (e.g., Kesebir & Pyszczynski, 2012;Moynihan et al., 2015;Moynihan, Igou, & Van Tilburg, 2017b;Wisman, 2006;Wisman et al., 2015), we predicted that perceptions of meaninglessness following ...
... ( Sedikides & Skowronski, 2003;Taubman Ben-Ari & Noy, 2010). We predicted that the proposed indirect effect of disbelief in free will on conformity would be stronger at higher levels of self-awareness (e.g., a conditional indirect effect), in line with previous existential escape literature (Moynihan et al., 2015;Moynihan et al., 2017b;Wisman et al., 2015). ...
... Additionally, we supplemented our proposed mediation model in Study 3b with self-awareness as a moderator. Consistent with the literature on existential escape ( Moynihan et al., 2015;Wisman et al., 2015), the effect of disbelief in free will on conformity through meaninglessness was significantly stronger at greater self-awareness ( Moynihan et al., 2015;Moynihan et al., 2017b;Wisman et al., 2015). ...
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Belief in free will is founded on the idea that people are responsible for their behavior. People who believe in free will derive meaning in life from these beliefs. Conformity refers to succumbing to external pressures and imitating others’ behaviors. Sometimes, conformity involves a loss of self‐awareness, which reduces perceived meaninglessness. We tested if disbelief in free will increases perceived meaninglessness and if people subsequently become more conformist to address this negative existential perception. We conducted three studies to test this hypothesis. In Study 1, experimentally induced disbelief in free will resulted in perceived meaninglessness. In Study 2, perceived meaninglessness correlated with conformity. Finally, in Study 3, perceived meaninglessness mediated the relationship between disbelief in free will and conformity, especially under high self‐awareness. We conclude that perceptions about meaning play a central role in the relationship between disbelief in free will and conformity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... In response, boredom triggers a search for more meaningful engagement (van Tilburg, Igou, & Sedikides, 2013), or, when incapable of finding such, motivates self-stimulation with exciting alternatives (Leary, Rogers, Canfield, & Coe, 1986;Martin, Sadlo, & Stew, 2006;Sansone, Weir, Harpster, & Morgan, 1992;van Tilburg & Igou, 2012). These alternatives offer distraction from the acute lack of meaningful activity (Moynihan et al., 2015). Indeed, many boredom researchers argue that the increased stimulation-seeking as compensation in response to the lethargy of boredom is crucial to the definition of boredom (e.g., Fahlman et al., 2011;van Tilburg & Igou, 2012). ...
... Notwithstanding boredom's prevalence, boredom has only recently received increased scientific scrutiny (e.g., van Tilburg & Igou, 2017a). The lack of research on boredom is particularly striking considering the portfolio of undesirable variables associated with high boredom proneness, including aggression (Dahlen, Martin, Ragan, & Kuhlman, 2004), substance abuse (Lee, Neighbors, & Woods, 2007), unsafe driving (Dahlen, Martin, Ragan, & Kuhlman, 2005), pathological gambling (Blaszczynski, McConaghy, & Frankova, 1990), unhealthy eating (Moynihan et al., 2015), and many other adverse phenomena (see Vodanovich, 2003). Some scholars speculated that these maladaptive behaviors are specific expressions of the general impulsiveness that boredom breeds (e.g., Gerritsen, Toplak, Sciaraffa, & Eastwood, 2014). ...
... However, in the absence of meaningful engagement, bored people also tend to distract themselves from their adverse state. A potent, albeit potentially harmful, way to address perceived meaninglessness is by yielding to hedonic impulses (e.g., hedonic food consumption; Moynihan et al., 2015; interest in sex; Wisman & Goldenberg, 2005;alcohol consumption;Wisman, Heflick, & Goldenberg, 2015; see also Wisman, 2006). Indeed, several studies indicate that meaning threats in generalsuch as social exclusion and mortality saliencepromote impulsiveness (e.g., Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Twenge, 2005;DeWall, Twenge, Bushman, Im, & Williams, 2010;Friese & Hofmann, 2008;Twenge, Catanese, & Baumeister, 2003). ...
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High (vs. low) levels of boredom are associated with greater (vs. lesser) impulsiveness. It is important to examine the psychological processes that link boredom and impulsiveness to understand this relationship. We propose that heightened impulsiveness in response to boredom partly stems from people’s attempts to deal with meaninglessness when bored. In Studies 1–2, we found that perceived meaninglessness, characteristic of boredom, mediated the relationship between boredom and impulsiveness. In Study 3, we additionally hypothesized that self-awareness serves as a catalyst of boredom-induced impulsiveness by highlighting meaninglessness. Accordingly, Study 3 showed that manipulated boredom promoted impulsiveness through meaninglessness, particularly at greater levels of self-awareness. These studies support our hypothesis that impulsiveness is a response to boredom and the meaninglessness that boredom signals.
... 6 those in standard cages were significantly more likely to approach diverse stimuli, ranging from rewarding cues to (normally) aversive ones. Standard-housed mink also consumed more snacks and spent more time lying awake inactive, as is reported in bored humans (Moynihan et al., 2015). ...
... Humans in three different conditions consumed more snacks when they selfreported increased boredom (Moynihan et al., 2015) Mink without environmental enrichment consumed more food rewards than mink with environmental enrichment (Meagher & Mason, 2012) Polydipsia As with polyphagia, animals in the monotonous condition should drink and urinate more frequently, even excessively NF Three laboratory rabbits drank and urinated excessively; no health abnormalities were found, and provision of toys and manipulanda successfully reduced the behaviour (Potter & Borkowski, 1998). ...
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Boredom is likely to have adaptive value in motivating exploration and learning, and many animals may possess the basic neurological mechanisms to support it. Chronic inescapable boredom can be extremely aversive, and understimulation can harm neural, cognitive and behavioural flexibility. Wild and domesticated animals are at particular risk in captivity, which is often spatially and temporally monotonous. Yet biological research into boredom has barely begun, despite having important implications for animal welfare, the evolution of motivation and cognition, and for human dysfunction at individual and societal levels. Here I aim to facilitate hypotheses about how monotony affects behaviour and physiology, so that boredom can be objectively studied by ethologists and other scientists. I cover valence (pleasantness) and arousal (wakefulness) qualities of boredom, because both can be measured, and I suggest boredom includes suboptimal arousal and aversion to monotony. Because the suboptimal arousal during boredom is aversive, individuals will resist low arousal. Thus, behavioural indicators of boredom will, seemingly paradoxically, include signs of increasing drowsiness, alongside bouts of restlessness, avoidance and sensation-seeking behaviour. Valence and arousal are not, however, sufficient to fully describe boredom. For example, human boredom is further characterized by a perception that time ‘drags’, and this effect of monotony on time perception can too be behaviourally assayed in animals. Sleep disruption and some abnormal behaviour may also be caused by boredom. Ethological research into this emotional phenomenon will deepen understanding of its causes, development, function and evolution, and will enable evidence-based interventions to mitigate human and animal boredom.
... Long-term quarantine may lead to frequent snacking due to boredom and stress 60 . Unfortunately, the frequency of snacking increased significantly in the Polish group during isolation (p < 0.0001). ...
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The influence of the confinement on the changes of eating behaviors in men and women in Poland and between groups were assessed. Results were obtained for 112 men and 200 women. An anonymous questionnaire available on-line from 29 April to 19 May 2020 was the research tool. It contained questions about the frequency of consumption "before" and "during" confinement. Additionally, anthropometric measurements were declared by the respondents. An increase in the number of meals and an improvement in their regularity were observed in both groups. However, the frequency of snacking also increased. During lockdown women consumed potatoes, sweets, canned meat and eggs and men consumed canned meat more frequently. Products consumed less frequently were: fast food, instant soups and energy drinks (women), and white bread and fast food (men). The frequency of alcohol consumption also increased during lockdown. Average body weight and BMI increased significantly during social isolation. Body weight increase was declared by almost half of women and 40% of men. During the blockade period caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in the dietary behavior of the study group of women and men were found. The nature of these changes varied according to gender and the dietary parameters analyzed.
... They also found that higher levels of AEA at baseline, associated with decreased levels of anxiety. Furthermore, a common phenomenon is that typically negative emotions, particularly boredom, stress and depressive emotions increase our desire to eat in order to increase positive emotions ( Koball et al., 2012;Yau and Potenza, 2013;Moynihan et al., 2015). These factors could explain the elevated levels of OEA post activity and lower PAS scores. ...
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The euphoric feeling described after running is, at least in part, due to increased circulating endocannabinoids (eCBs). eCBs are lipid signaling molecules involved in reward, appetite, mood, memory and neuroprotection. The aim of this study was to investigate whether activities other than running can increase circulating eCBs. Nine healthy female volunteers (mean 61 years) were recruited from a local choir. Circulating eCBs, haemodynamics, mood and hunger ratings were measured before and immediately after 30 min of dance, reading, singing or cycling in a fasted state. Singing increased plasma levels of anandamide (AEA) by 42% (P < 0.05), palmitoylethanolamine (PEA) by 53% (P < 0.01) and oleoylethanolamine (OEA) by 34% (P < 0.05) and improved positive mood and emotions (P < 0.01), without affecting hunger scores. Dancing did not affect eCB levels or hunger ratings, but decreased negative mood and emotions (P < 0.01). Cycling increased OEA levels by 26% (P < 0.05) and tended to decrease how hungry volunteers felt, without affecting mood. Reading increased OEA levels by 28% (P < 0.01) and increased the desire to eat. Plasma AEA levels were positively correlated with how full participants felt (P < 0.05). Plasma OEA levels were positively correlated with positive mood and emotions (P < 0.01). All three ethanolamines were positively correlated with heart rate (HR; P < 0.0001). These data suggest that activities other than running can increase plasma eCBs associated with changes in mood or appetite. Increases in eCBs may underlie the rewarding and pleasurable effects of singing and exercise and ultimately some of the long-term beneficial effects on mental health, cognition and memory.
... They also found that higher levels of AEA at baseline, associated with decreased levels of anxiety. Furthermore, a common phenomenon is that typically negative emotions, particularly boredom, stress and depressive emotions increase our desire to eat in order to increase positive emotions (Koball et al., 2012;Yau and Potenza, 2013;Moynihan et al., 2015). These factors could explain the elevated levels of OEA post activity and lower PAS scores. ...
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The euphoric feeling described after running is, at least in part, due to increased circulating endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are lipid signalling molecules involved in reward, appetite, mood, memory and neuroprotection. The aim of this study was to investigate whether activities other than running can increase circulating endocannabinoids. 9 healthy female volunteers (mean 61 yrs) were recruited from a local choir. Circulating endocannabinoids, haemodynamics, mood and hunger ratings were measured before and immediately after 30 min of dance, reading, singing or cycling in a fasted state. Singing increased plasma levels of anandamide (AEA) by 42% (P<0.05), palmitoylethanolamine (PEA) by 53% (P<0.01) and oleoylethanolamine (OEA) by 34% (P<0.05), and improved positive mood and emotions (P<0.01), without affecting hunger scores.Dancing did not affect endocannabinoid levels or hunger ratings, but decreased negative mood and emotions (P<0.01). Cycling increased OEA levels by 26% (P<0.05) and tended to decrease how hungry volunteers felt, without affecting mood. Reading increased OEA levels by 28% (P<0.01) and increased the desire to eat. Plasma AEA levels were positively correlated with how full participants felt (P<0.05).Plasma OEA levels were positively correlated with positive mood and emotions (P<0.01). All three ethanolamines were positively correlated with heart rate (P<0.0001). These data suggest that activities other than running can increase plasma endocannabinoids associated with changes in mood or appetite. Increases in endocannabinoids may underlie the rewarding and pleasurable effects of singing and exercise, and ultimately some of the long-term beneficial effects on mental health, cognition and memory.
... In earlier research, we could demonstrate that the boredom increases nostalgic memories (), social identification with in-groups rather than out-groups (Van Tilburg & Igou, 2011a), adoptions of more extreme political attitudes (VanTilburg & Igou, 2016c), and increased prosocial behavior (VanTilburg & Igou, 2016b). Recently, it was also found that boredom increases unhealthy eating (Koball, Meers, Storfer-Isser, Domoff, & Musher-Eizenman, 2012) as a means to reduce the salience of the meaning threat caused by boredom (Moynihan et al., 2015). The converging evidence that boredom serves as an existential threat is consistent with our current findings and such evidence validates the notion that a sense of meaning in life is a central human need, associated with psychological processes that cope with meaning threats to establish and reestablish meaning in life. ...
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