Induced Boredom Suppresses the Recall of Positively Valenced Information: A Preliminary Study

Roger Goldberg, McWelling Todman


The mood-congruence memory (MCM) effect in the case of depressed mood is typically evidenced by enhanced recall of negatively valenced information and/or a corresponding reduction in the recall of positive information. However, the impact of the related affect of boredom on memory has been overlooked. A sample of undergraduate and graduate students (n = 28) were asked to either read an interesting story (Low Boredom condition) or complete a tedious vowel-counting task (High Boredom condition) after studying a list of neutral, negative, and positive words. Following the experimental manipulation, the participants were asked to recall as many words from the list as they could remember. The participants in the low boredom (LB) group reported (i.e., recalled words + misremembered words) significantly more positive words than participants in the high boredom (HB) condition. However, no differences were found between groups in terms of the total number words reported, total number of positive, neutral or negative words recalled, or the overall accuracy of recall. Boredom appears to inhibit the reporting and recall of positively valenced information, but seems to have less influence on the recall and reporting of emotionally negative information than what is typically reported in studies with depressed mood. This finding is consistent with a conception of boredom as an affect state that is more closely tied to the perceived depletion of potential positive reinforcement (e.g., novelty, enjoyment, meaningfulness) than the depletion of negative reinforcement (e.g., escape from suffering, loss, failure). Larger implications of the findings are discussed.


boredom; boredom-induction; mood-congruence; memory

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