Culture and Gender Differences in Boredom Proneness

Article excerpt

Many scholars have suggested that boredom is a contributing factor to an assortment of personal, social, and organizational problems (Bernstein, 1975; Healy, 1984). Early work depicted boredom as a widespread "disease" (e.g., Mark, 1972; Ramey, 1974), an obstacle to mental health (Bernstein, 1975), and a profound personal and social issue (e.g., Healy, 1984; Iso-Ahola & Weissinger, 1987). Empirical data has generally supported the wide ranging and potentially harmful role of boredom. For instance, boredom has consistently been shown to be significantly related to negative affect such as depression, anxiety, and anger (Ahmed, 1990; Gana & Akremi, 1998; Gordon, Wilkinson, McGown, & Jovanoska, 1997; Rupp & Vodanovich, 1997; Sommers and Vodanovich, 2000; Vodanovich, Verner, & Gilbride, 1991). It has also been associated with detrimental behaviors such as pathological gambling, impulsivity, and procrastination (e.g., Blaszczynski, McConaghy, & Frankova, 1990; Blunt & Pychyl, 1998; Leong & Schneller, 1993; Vodanovich & Rupp, 1999; Watt & Vodanovich, 1992a), and with poor task/work performance (Kass, Vodanovich, & Callander; 2001; Kass, Vodanovich, Stanny, & Taylor; 2001; Sawin and Scerbo; 1995; Watt & Hargis, 2009).

Despite the fact that a consensus does not exist regarding the definition of boredom, it has commonly been associated with several distinguishing features such as non-optimal (e.g., low) arousal levels, dissatisfaction, poor attentional control, and a monotonous, sparse environment (e.g., DeChenne & Moody, 1988; Farmer & Sundberg, 1986; Fisher, 1993; Hill & Perkins, 1985; Leary, Rogers, Canfield, & Coe, 1986; Mikulas & Vodanovich, 1993; Vodanovich & Kass, 1990). Further, distinctions exist in how boredom is defined in other languages. For instance, in German, the word for boredom is "langeweile" which essentially refers to the slow passing of time. In Hebrew, "leshaamem" means to long for and sadness due to being idle. A somewhat similar connotation exists with the French word for boredom, ennui, which generally refers to despondency and annoyance resulting from inactivity. On the other hand, the original meaning of the Slavic word depicting boredom, "kuka," is repetition and monotony (Waugh, 1975). Finally, Sundberg and Staat (1992) have reported that the Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), and Korean words for boredom (or boring) emphasize the meanings of "nothing to do" and "not interesting" (see Esman, 1979; Peters, 1975; Waugh, 1975 for more information on the origin of the word boredom).

Despite these definitional disparities in the meaning of boredom, little attention has been devoted to examining cross-cultural differences in boredom levels. Also, the research that does exist has yielded conflicting results. For instance, Zuckerman, Eysenck, and Eysenck (1978) found that, among males, scores on the Boredom Susceptibility scale of the Sensation Seeking Scale (Form V) were higher for British than United States students. Sundberg, Latkin, Farmer, and Saoud (1991) found that college students from Hong Kong and Lebanon had significantly greater scores on the Boredom Proneness Scale than students from America and Australia. On the other hand, Vodanovich and Watt (1999) found that U.S. students had significantly higher overall boredom proneness scores than their counterparts in Ireland. Given the equivocal results regarding boredom proneness differences among various cultures, no specific hypothesis regarding differences between German and U.S. samples are offered here. Therefore, the current research is exploratory regarding cultural differences in BPS scores.

It is hypothesized that males are more boredom prone than females regardless of culture. This is based on prior research findings that males possess significantly higher BPS total scores and External Stimulation subscale scores (e.g., McLeod & Vodanovich, 1991; Polly, Vodanovich, Watt, & Blanchard, 1993; Rupp & Vodanovich, 1997; Tolor, 1989; Watt & Vodanovich, 1992b). …