Boredom and social meaning

J. M. Barbalet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Citations (Scopus)


Meaning is necessary in social processes. An absence of meaning in an activity or circumstance leads to an experience of boredom. This is a restless, irritable feeling that the subject's current activity or situation holds no appeal, and that there is a need to get on with something interesting. Thus boredom emotionally registers an absence of meaning and leads the actor in question towards meaning. Boredom, then, is central to key social processes centered on questions of meaningfulness. Given the pervasive preconditions for boredom, release from boredom is a factor that explains characteristic social practices, including risk taking and intergroup conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-646
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


  • Boredom
  • Conflict
  • Emotions
  • Explanation
  • Meaning
  • Risk


Dive into the research topics of 'Boredom and social meaning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this