Being Boring

We do not like boring people. Being stereotyped as a bore may come with substantially negative interpersonal consequences. Yet, who is boring and why?

A new study by University of Essex researchers published last January gives us the portrait of the perfect bore: A dull data entry worker or actuary who enjoys sleeping. Being a religious accountant or tax consultant with no sense of humor and/or opinions who likes watching TV is also truly promising.

The author of this blog, a bad conversatinalist who likes mathematics and computers, is of course very boring, but let me tell you that the tables I am copying here have a lot more rows (not shown). Even an arrogant journalist who plays video games qualifies as boring! So, don’t be so sure you are not. I bet you are both bored and boring if you are reading this!

Unfortunately, some people are perceived as boring. Despite the potential relevance that these perceptions might have in everyday life, the underlying psychological processes and consequences of perceiving a person as “boring” have been largely unexplored. We examined the stereotypical features of boring others by having people generate (Study 1) and then rate (Study 2) these. We focused on occupations (e.g., data analytics, taxation, and accounting), hobbies (e.g., sleeping, religion, and watching TV), and personal characteristics (e.g., lacking humor and opinions, being negative) that people ascribed to stereotypically boring others. Experiments then showed that those who were ascribed boring characteristics were seen as lacking interpersonal warmth and competence (Study 3), were socially avoided (Study 4), and enduring their company required compensation (Study 5). These results suggest that being stereotyped as a bore may come with substantially negative interpersonal consequences.

Tilburg, Wijnand A. P. van, Eric R. Igou, and Mehr Panjwani. ‘Boring People: Stereotype Characteristics, Interpersonal Attributions, and Social Reactions’. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 8 March 2022, 01461672221079104.


Featured Image: Being Boring, by Harald Henkel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.