Jan 18, 2022
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Boredom drives people to sadism, study finds

People are cruel towards each other. This is not just a philosophical concept, but a biological fact. Man is about six times more cruel towards his own kind than other mammals. Scientists believe that such aggressiveness, directed at their own kind, helped our ancient ancestors survive in conditions of high competition with their own kind.

At the same time, with the development of our civilization, the level of aggression is growing. If in ancient times about 2% of people died at the hands of fellow tribesmen, then about three thousand years ago, the proportion of violent deaths reached 30%.

Recent studies show that boredom can be the culprit. Everything from domestic violence to hazing in the army can come from the fact that people are simply bored. To prove this, scientists had to analyze many studies. Some of them were based on surveys, and some were based on experiments.

So in one of the surveys, people directly admitted that they were more cruel to others when they were bored. In another study, it turned out that the military harmed their fellow soldiers when they had nothing to do.

Even trolling on the Internet, as it turned out, is associated with boredom. People admitted that they are much more likely to bully others online and write nasty things under the influence of this emotion. Parents were more cruel to children for the same reason.

These data are also confirmed by experiments. So in one of the Danish studies described in the meta-analysis, volunteers were asked to watch videos: some of them were more boring than others. While the respondents were busy watching, they were offered to grind insect larvae in a coffee grinder. Most of the participants in the experiment who watched the boring videos agreed – unlike their busier comrades. In fact, there were no live larvae in the coffee grinder, only a dummy, but the volunteers did not know about this.

In other experiments that were conducted online, subjects were allowed to decide whether to give more money to another participant or deduct from their account. Both studies found that those who felt more bored were more likely to subtract from others. Researchers believe that with the help of cruelty, people try to alleviate the unpleasant sensations associated with boredom.

At the same time, the researchers note that if there is an alternative, when you can choose between an interesting activity and sadism, people do not prefer cruelty. Otherwise, when there is no alternative activity, boredom only increases sadistic tendencies.

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