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Social Exclusion and Boredom in Virtual Environments

Social Processes Lab


March 2008 - June 2013


Budget resources of KMRC


In many face to face situations as well as in virtual environments, we may be ignored by others despite our wish to interact with them. Research has shown again and again that such social exclusion can have dramatically negative effects on the excluded with respect to self-esteem, meaningful existence, and the sense of control (e.g., Williams et al., 2000; Zadro et al., 2004). However, it is not clear how much of these effects is a result of exclusion per se and how much could be due to the fact that being excluded is also boring.

Boredom is described in the literature as an aversive state characterized by a lack of meaning (Barbalet, 1999) and heightened constraint (i.e., low control, Fenichel, 1951). Given that self-efficacy and locus of control are strongly associated with self-esteem, the constrained nature of having to attend to boring stimuli out of one's control could also have detrimental consequences for self-esteem. Thus, some part of the effects from social exclusion in a virtual environment (which is often used in this area of research) could be due to factors not inherent to social exclusion per se.

In this project, an effort was made to theoretically as well as empirically separate boredom from the experience of social exclusion. Further, reactions to both facets were analyzed with regard to their diverging as well as common aspects. Indeed, the results demonstrated that some of the effects of social exclusion can be attributed to boredom. This work not only informs research on social exclusion but also sheds light on the antecedents, nature and consequences of (social) boredom in virtual environments.