Boredom’s impact on the economy is under-researched, experts say, possibly because there has been no modern situation like this one, but many agree that it’s an important one, Sydney Ember reports for The New York Times.
Feeling bored may result in different kinds of behaviors, like increasing novelty seeking and increasing reward sensitivity, said Erin Westgate, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Florida, who studies boredom.
This swirl of reactions to boredom can help explain the GameStop phenomenon, Ms. Westgate said. Investing in the stock was not just an act that felt engaging, powered by a propensity for taking risks and the excitement of reward, but also something that felt meaningful: For many traders, it was a form of protest.
Early in the pandemic, bread-making fervor prompted stores across the country to sell out of yeast. Puzzle sales have skyrocketed. Gardening has taken off as a hobby. Home improvement, too, has boomed. Sherwin-Williams said it had record sales in the fourth quarter and for the year, in part because of strong performances in its do-it-yourself and residential repaint businesses. Pandemic boredom evidently has nothing on watching paint dry.
There has also been an increase in sales of things like video games to keep us occupied, as well as things to help relieve the stress of the pandemic (and, perhaps, boredom from being at home), including self-help books, candles and messaging appliances.
It is possible that not being bored during certain periods of the day is also making people less productive, said Bec Weeks, who worked as a senior adviser for the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian government and is a co-founder of a behavioral science app called Pique.
Research has shown that mind-wandering, an activity that can happen during periods of boredom, can result in greater productivity. But during the pandemic, some of the best opportunities for mind-wandering, like the daily commute to work, have been lost for the millions of people now working from home.
“Even in those moments when we used to be bored, there were often a lot of things going on that we didn’t realize,” Ms. Weeks said.