If you have strong political opinions, you might just be bored, says study

So, you know when you’re scrolling through Facebook reading whatever, because you’re in line at the grocery store or you just can’t decide what to watch on Netflix, and you see all your friends’ endlessly opinionated political postings and you think “don’t you people have anything better to do?”

The answer might just be no, no they don’t.

New research recently published in the European Journal of Psychology suggests that boredom drives people to develop stronger political leanings. And it only stands to reason – right? – that it also drives them to take to Facebook to rant about those ideologies and argue vehemently with everyone who disagrees with them.

Essentially what the researchers found is that boredom makes people search for meaning and that your already held political ideologies are a convenient place to find meaning.

“One of the things boredom does is that it essentially wakes up people to the realization that what they are doing at the moment is utterly purposeless,” study co-author Wijnand van Tilburg, a researcher from King’s College London, is quoted as saying by the Huffington Post. “And expressing political ideas or being connected to a particular political group is one way in which people gain a sense of purpose.”

Here’s the study abstract:

Boredom makes people attempt to re-establish a sense of meaningfulness. Political ideologies, and in particular the adherence to left- versus right-wing beliefs, can serve as source of meaning. Accordingly, we tested the hypothesis that boredom is associated with the stronger adherence to left- versus right-wing beliefs, resulting in more extreme political orientations. Study 1 demonstrates that experimentally induced boredom leads to more extreme political orientations. Study 2 indicates that people who get easily bored with their environment adhere to more extreme ends of a political spectrum compared with their less easily bored counterparts. Finally, study 3 reveals that the relatively extreme political orientations among those who are easily bored can be attributed to their enhanced search for meaning. Overall, our research suggests that extreme political orientations are, in part, a function of boredom’s existential qualities.

This wouldn’t be so bad – politics are important, after all – except for that fact that lately people are becoming so entrenched in their own ideologies that they have no room for conflicting opinions and, frankly, civilized discussion and nuanced thought are becoming increasingly rare – and that is bad.

Do you really feel that strongly or are you just looking for something to feel strongly about?

Maybe before you go on another angry political rant, consider that you might instead like to go for a walk, develop meaningful relationships, watch a good movie, or have a new experience.

See how you feel when you’re done. Maybe that rant wasn’t so important after all.

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