Boredom Leads to Political Extremes

Boredom among an electorate may be contributing to a widening of political views among voters.

Studies undertaken by researchers at the University of Limerick and King’s College London, demonstrate that experiences of boredom, contribute to a stronger endorsement of left versus right-wing ideologies, resulting in greater polarization of political preferences. The research, undertaken by Dr Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg (King’s College London) and Dr Eric R. Igou (University of Limerick), has been published in a top tier international journal, the European Journal of Social Psychology.


The studies indicate that boredom leads to greater endorsement of political ideologies, as they provide a sense of meaning in people’s lives, counteracting the experience of meaninglessness when people are bored. Specifically, Study 1 shows that state boredom leads to more extreme political orientations. In Study 2, a similar result emerged for people who are prone to being bored. In the last study of the series, Study 3, the authors found that extreme political orientations among those prone to boredom experiences is based on their search for meaning in life.


As Dr. Eric R. Igou form the Department of Psychology at UL summarizes: “These studies show 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.” The implications of these findings are obvious. 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.”


Van Tilburg, W. A. P., & Igou, E. R. (2016). Going to political extremes in response to boredom.European Journal of Social Psychology.


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