[Paleopsych] Boredom proneness and psychosocial development. John D. Watt; Stephen J. Vodanovich.
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Boredom proneness and psychosocial development. John D. Watt; Stephen J.
The Journal of Psychology, May 1999 v133 i3 p303(1)
The effect of boredom proneness as measured by the Boredom Proneness Scale (R.
F. Farmer & N. D. Sundberg, 1986) on college students' psychosocial development
was investigated via the Student Developmental Task and Lifestyle Assessment
(SDTLA; R. B. Winston, T K. Miller, & J. S. Prince, 1995). Low boredom-prone
students had significantly higher scores on the following SDTLA measures:
career planning, lifestyle planning, peer relationships, educational
involvement, instrumental autonomy, emotional autonomy, interdependence,
academic autonomy, and salubrious lifestyle. Gender differences on boredom
proneness and psychosocial development measures are discussed.
According to Chickering and Reisser (1993, p. 2), "Psychosocial theories view
development as a series of developmental tasks or stages, including qualitative
changes in thinking, feeling, behaving, valuing, and relating to others and to
oneself." In the context of higher education, psychosocial development refers
to the study of how traditional-aged college students resolve biological and
psychological changes within themselves in relation to environmental
experiences and expectations. Although a number of psychosocial theories have
been proposed to help explain how individuals develop psychosocially,
Chickering's conceptualization has, perhaps, been the most influential
(Chickering, 1969; Chickering & Reisser, 1993).
Through his research, Chickering recognized that students in higher education
experience unique challenges and opportunities and undergo changes in more than
their intellectual development. Specifically, Chickering (1969) identified
seven broad changes experienced by traditional-aged college students.
Chickering and Reisser (1993) revised, renamed, and reordered the original
seven vectors into the following developmental stages: developing competence,
managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing
mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose,
and developing integrity. Chickering's intention was to develop a
conceptualization that could be used by researchers to address the needs of
students beyond basic academic concerns. Chickering and Reisser stated that
"human development should be the organizing purpose for higher education" and
"community colleges and four-year institutions can have significant impact on
student development along the major vectors" (p. 265).
One variable that may significantly affect college students' psychosocial
development is boredom. Boredom is, perhaps, best viewed as "an aversion for
repetitive experience of any kind, routine work, or dull and boring people and
extreme restlessness under conditions when escape from constancy is impossible"
(Zuckerman, 1979, p. 103) and "a state of relatively low arousal and
dissatisfaction, which is attributed to an inadequately stimulating situation"
(Mikulas & Vodanovich, 1993, p. 3). Mikulas and Vodanovich (p. 3) discussed
boredom in terms of state, meaning a "state of being or state of consciousness,
a particular combination of perceptions, affect, cognitions, and attributions."
That is, this definition reflects the common consideration of boredom as a
transitory state. It should be noted, however, that boredom has also been
discussed and assessed in trait terms (Farmer & Sundberg, 1986; Iso-Ahola &
Weissinger, 1990; Watt & Ewing, 1996).
Boredom has been associated with a host of social and psychological issues. In
education, it has been linked to low grades and diminished academic achievement
(Freeman, 1993; Maroldo, 1986), truancy (Irving & Parker-Jenkins, 1995),
dropout rates (Robinson, 1975; Sartoris & Vanderwell, 1981; Tidwell, 1988),
school dissatisfaction (Aldridge & DeLucia, 1989; Gjesne, 1977), and
oppositional behavior (Larson & Richards, 1991). In industry, boredom has been
associated with job dissatisfaction (O'Hanlon, 1981), property damage (Drory,
1982), and increased accident rates (Branton, 1970).
In a clinical context, boredom has been reported to be significantly positively
related to depression, anxiety, hopelessness, loneliness, hostility (Farmer &
Sundberg, 1986; Vodanovich, Verner, & Gilbride, 1991), overt and covert
narcissism (Wink & Donahue, 1997), alienation (Tolor, 1989), and borderline
personality disorder (James, Berelowitz, & Vereker, 1996). Significant negative
correlations have been reported between boredom proneness and
self-actualization (McLeod & Vodanovich, 1991); purpose in life (Weinstein,
Xie, & Cleanthous, 1995); sexual, relationship, and life satisfaction (Watt &
Ewing, 1996); and persistence and sociability (Leong & Schneller, 1993).
Boredom has also been implicated as a contributing factor in substance use
(Johnston & O'Malley, 1986), pathological gambling (Blaszczynski, McConaghy, &
Frankova, 1990), and eating disorders (Ganley, 1989).
Although in the past decade we have witnessed an increasing interest in boredom
research and scholarship, it remains a neglected topic in both psychology and
education. Our purpose in the present study was to investigate the effect of
boredom proneness on psychosocial development among traditional-aged college
students. On the basis of the previous review, we postulated that boredom
proneness would be negatively correlated with psychosocial development.
Specifically, low boredom-prone students were expected to possess significantly
higher psychosocial development scores. Gender differences for both boredom
proneness and psychosocial development were also examined. On the basis of past
research (Vodanovich & Kass, 1990a; Watt & Blanchard, 1994; Watt & Ewing, 1996;
Watt & Vodanovich, 1992a), we hypothesized that men would have significantly
higher boredom-proneness scores than women. Because of inconsistencies in the
literature, no specific predictions were made regarding gender differences on
The participants were 76 female and 66 male (N = 142) student volunteers
attending undergraduate psychology and education classes at a large university
in the midwestern United States. The participants' ages ranged from 17 to 24
years (M = 19.4, SD = 1.4). The majority of the participants were White
(90.8%), 1st-year students (69.7%), unmarried (98.6), and living in a
single-sex residence hall (35.2%).
Boredom proneness. Farmer and Sundberg's (1986) 28-item (true-false) Boredom
Proneness Scale (BPS) was used to assess the tendency to experience boredom .
Sample items from this measure include "It is easy for me to concentrate on my
activities," "It takes a lot of change and variety to keep me really happy,"
and "It takes more stimulation to get me going than most people." In this
study, the BPS was modified to a 7-point Likert-type format. Responses ranged
from highly disagree (1) to highly agree (7); higher scores reflected greater
Adequate internal reliability consistency for the true-false format of the BPS
was reported by Farmer and Sundberg (1986; r = .79) and Watt and Davis (1991; r
= .82). Comparable internal consistency reliabilities have also been reported
by Watt and Blanchard (1994; r = .81) and Watt and Ewing (1996; r = .84), using
the same 7-point Likert-type format used in this study. The internal
consistency reliability of the BPS in the present study was .83.
Sufficient validity evidence for the BPS has also been reported. For instance,
the BPS has been significantly positively related to depression, hopelessness,
loneliness, and amotivation (Farmer & Sundberg, 1986). Other researchers have
reported significant positive relationships between boredom proneness and
impulsivity (Watt & Vodanovich, 1992b); hostility, anxiety, and depression
(Vodanovich et al., 1991); sexual boredom and relationship dissatisfaction
(Watt & Ewing, 1996); and poor impulse control and dogmatism (Leong &
Schneller, 1993). Significant negative relationships have been reported between
boredom proneness and self-actualization (McLeod & Vodanovich, 1991), life
satisfaction (Farmer & Sundberg, 1986), need for cognition (Watt & Blanchard,
1994), and positive affect (Vodanovich et al., 1991).
Last, factor analytic evidence suggests that boredom may best be viewed as a
multidimensional construct (Vodanovich & Kass, 1990b; Vodanovich, Watt, &
Piotrowski, 1997). Specifically, Vodanovich and Kass (1990b) found the BPS to
consist of the following five factors: External Stimulation (need for
excitement, change, and variety; internal consistency reliability .78 for the
present study), Internal Stimulation (difficulty in keeping oneself interested
and entertained; .70 for the present study), Affective Responses (negative
emotional reactions to boredom ; .63 for the present study), Perception of Time
(perception of slow time passage; .72 for the present study), and Constraint
(feelings of restlessness and impatience; .74 for the present study).
Student Developmental Task and Lifestyle Assessment. We used the Student
Developmental Task and Lifestyle Assessment (SDTLA, Form F95; Winston et al.,
1995) to assess psychosocial development among traditional-aged college
students. The SDTLA is designed to measure certain aspects of Chickering's
model of psychosocial development (see Chickering, 1969; Chickering & Reisser,
The 153-item SDTLA is composed of three developmental task areas: (a)
establishing and clarifying purpose, (b) developing autonomy, and (c) having
mature interpersonal relationships. Each task is divided into subtasks. In
addition, the SDTLA has the Salubrious Lifestyle Scale, designed to assess the
degree to which a student's lifestyle is consistent with or promotes good
health and wellness practices. The SDTLA also contains a 7-item Lie Scale, to
assess response bias.
The establishing and clarifying purpose task consists of four subtasks: (a)
educational involvement (the degree to which students have well-defined
educational goals and plans, are actively involved in the academic life of
their school, and are knowledgeable about campus resources); (b) career
planning (the degree to which students are able to formulate specific
vocational plans, make a commitment to a chosen career field, and take the
appropriate steps necessary to prepare themselves for eventual employment); (c)
lifestyle planning (the degree to which students are able to establish a
personal direction and orientation in their lives, taking into account
personal, ethical, and religious values, future family planning, and
educational and vocational objectives); (d) cultural participation (the degree
to which students are actively involved in a wide variety of activities and
exhibit a wide array of cultural interests and a developed sense of aesthetic
The developing autonomy task is composed of four subtasks: (a) emotional
autonomy (the degree to which students trust their own ideas and feelings, have
self-assurance to be confident decision makers, and are able to voice
dissenting opinions in groups); (b) interdependence (the degree to which
students recognize the reciprocal nature of the relationship between themselves
and their community and fulfill their citizenship duties and responsibilities);
(c) academic autonomy (the degree to which students have developed the capacity
to deal with ambiguity and to monitor and control behavior in ways that allow
for the attainment of personal goals and fulfillment of responsibilities); and
(d) instrumental autonomy (the degree to which students are able to structure
their lives and manipulate their environment in ways that allow them to satisfy
daily needs and meet personal responsibilities without assistance from others).
The mature interpersonal relationships task is composed of two subtasks: (a)
peer relationships (the degree to which students have developed mature peer
relationships characterized by greater trust, independence, frankness, and
individuality); and (b) tolerance (the degree to which students are accepting
of those of different backgrounds, lifestyles, beliefs, cultures, races, and
Sufficient reliability and validity data have been supported for earlier
versions of the SDTLA (see Hess & Winston, 1995; Winston, 1990; Winston &
Miller, 1987). With one exception, scale and subscale reliability scores for
the SDTLA used in the present study were judged sufficient: establishing and
clarifying purpose task (r = .91), educational involvement subtask (r = .78),
career planning subtask (r = .82), lifestyle planning subtask (r = .80),
cultural participation subtask (r = .61), developing autonomy task (r = .86),
emotional autonomy subtask (r = .71), interdependence subtask (r = .74),
academic autonomy subtask (r = .77), instrumental autonomy subscale (r = .55),
mature interpersonal relationships task (r = .75), peer relationships subtask
(r = .63), tolerance subtask (r = .76), Salubrious Lifestyle Scale (r = .74),
and Lie Scale (r = .17). Because of the poor internal consistency reliability
associated with the Lie Scale, it was not used in further analyses.
We computed Pearson correlation coefficients to examine the relationship
between boredom proneness and psychosocial development. Consistent with
expectations, the results indicated significant negative correlations between
boredom proneness total and subscale scores and psychosocial development scores
(see Table 1).
[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED]
Specifying age and class standing (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th year) as covariates, we
computed a one-way multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) to test for
the effect of gender on psychosocial development scores. With Wilks's
criterion, an overall main effect for gender was found, F(11, 128) - 2.3, p
[less than] .05, [[Eta].sup.2] = .16. Follow-up univariate analyses indicated
that women had significantly higher scores on the following psychosocial
development measures: educational involvement, F(1, 138) = 7.9, p [less than]
.01; lifestyle planning, F(1, 138) = 9.2, p [less than] .005; instrumental
autonomy, F(1, 138) = 5.5, p [less than] .05; tolerance, F(1,138) = 8.0, p
[less than] .005; salubrious lifestyle, F(1, 138) = 5.6, p [less than] .05; and
academic autonomy, F(1, 138) = 4.8, p [less than] .05.
Age and class standing were selected as covariates because past research has
generally revealed a relationship between psychosocial development and these
two variables (Pascarella 8,: Terenzini, 1991). Age, however, did not provide
reliable adjustment to any of the dependent variables and, thus, was omitted
from future analyses. Means, adjusted means, and standard deviations for
psychosocial development by gender are reported in Table 2.
A one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was computed to test for
the effect of gender on the five factors of the BPS. The findings indicated an
overall main effect for gender, F(5, 133) = 4.1, p [less than] .005,
[[Eta].sup.2] = .13. Univariate contrasts indicated that men (M = 32.7, SD =
8.2, n = 65) had significantly [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] higher scores
than women (M = 28.0, SD = 7.2, n = 74) on external stimulation, F(1, 137) =
13.1, p [less than] .001. No significant differences related to gender were
found on the other BPS subscales.
A median split was conducted on the distribution of boredom proneness scores,
to categorize participants into high (M = 43.6, SD = 11.1, n = 73) and low (M =
34.0, SD = 9.8, n = 66) boredom groups. We computed a two-way MANCOVA to assess
the effect of boredom proneness on psychosocial development scores, after
adjusting for the effects of gender and class standing. A significant main
effect for boredom proneness was found, F(11, 125) = 5.3, p [less than] .001,
[[Eta].sup.2] = .32. Univariate analyses indicated that the low boredom-prone
students had significantly higher scores than the students with high boredom
proneness on the following measures of psychosocial development: educational
involvement, F(1, 135) = 20.8, p [less than] .001; career planning, F(1, 135) =
10.2, p [less than] .005; lifestyle planning, F(1, 135) = 22.5, p [less than]
.001; peer relationships, F(1, 135) = 23.1, p [less than] .001; instrumental
autonomy, F(1, 135) = 17.2, p [less than] .001; emotional autonomy, F(1, 135) =
15.0, p [less than] .001; salubrious lifestyle, F(1, 135) = 20.8, p [less than]
.001; interdependence, F(1, 135) = 14.1, p [less than] .001; cultural
participation, F(1, 135) = 6.2, p .05; and academic autonomy, F(1, 135) = 25.8,
p [less than] .05 (see Table 3).
[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 3 OMITTED]
Pascarella and Terenzini (1991, p. 557) commented that "Students not only make
statistically significant gains in factual knowledge and in a range of general
cognitive and intellectual skills; they also change on a broad array of value,
attitudinal, psychosocial, and moral dimensions." One variable that may
negatively affect college students' psychosocial development is boredom
Correlational analyses revealed significant negative relationships between
boredom proneness and psychosocial development (see Table 1). In addition,
after we controlled for the effects of gender and class standing, low
boredomprone students were found to possess significantly higher psychosocial
development scores. Our findings are consistent with the characterization of
the boredom -prone person as one who (a) lacks motivation, goals, ambition, and
a sense of meaning or purpose; (b) experiences varying degrees of negative
affect, such as hopelessness, anxiety, depression, hostility, and loneliness;
and (c) engages in maladaptive and unhealthy behaviors.
Our findings revealed a significant gender difference with respect to boredom
proneness. Specifically, the men had significantly higher boredom -proneness
scores than the women on the external stimulation subscale, which assessed an
individual's need for challenge, excitement, and variety. The finding of a
gender difference with respect to a high need for external stimulation is
congruent with past findings (Vodanovich & Kass, 1990a; Watt & Blanchard, 1994;
Watt & Vodanovich, 1992a). That is, men appear to experience greater boredom
than women in situations where a perceived lack of external stimulation exists.
One possible reason for the reported gender difference is that men tend to make
more stable and less complex attributions for their boredom than women (Polly,
Vodanovich, Watt, & Blanchard, 1993).
Unfortunately, little empirical attention has been focused on how best to
alleviate boredom . Polly et al. (1993, p. 130) suggested that "long-term
strategies that focus on increasing the ability to generate internal
stimulation or activity may prove successful in reducing the likelihood of
boredom." Watt and Blanchard (1994) also speculated that boredom proneness may
be alleviated by the self-generation of information or by keeping oneself
entertained. Presumably, individuals who are capable of providing their own
stimulation are better able to escape the negative experience of boredom.
Indeed, Trunnell, White, Cederquist, and Braza (1996) reported using meditative
techniques, such as mindfulness (being fully present and engaged in life as it
is currently happening), to reduce boredom among college students engaging in
educational outdoor experiences. Future researchers should continue to explore
additional adaptive ways of reducing boredom, as well as examining whether such
reductions may result in an increase in psychosocial development.
Gender differences were also reported for psychosocial development.
Specifically, the women had significantly higher scores measuring educational
involvement, lifestyle planning, instrumental autonomy, tolerance, salubrious
lifestyle, and academic autonomy.
Extant research does suggest that gender may influence the psychosocial
development of students in higher education. Specifically, research on the
effects of gender seems to indicate that there are different developmental
patterns for women and men, especially concerning the issues of intimacy,
identity, and autonomy. For women it appears that an increased emphasis on
connectedness and relationships positively promotes their development of
identity and autonomy (Gilligan, 1982; Straub, 1987; Straub & Rodgers, 1986;
Thomas & Chickering, 1984). Men, in contrast, are believed to develop identity
and autonomy through separation (Gilligan, 1982).
College student development professionals study the psychosocial development of
students in order to better understand their developmental tasks and stages. A
more complete understanding of students' developmental tasks and stages and the
variables that affect them is crucial in order to design and implement more
effective programs and services, as well as provide individual and group
counseling services related to general and specific student developmental
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