If you have never encountered boring people at a party, chances are you yourself are the boring person. But while we are all the heroes of our own stories and likely very few people think of themselves as boring, science is on its way to figuring out what exactly makes your long, rambling, ultimately pointless anecdotes cause listeners’ eyes to glaze over so quickly. A new paper published by researchers at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom has surveyed hundreds of individuals, and according to them, they have begun to break down the essential components of what makes one perceived to be boring. We’ll be honest: it isn’t pretty.
According to Wijnand Van Tilburg, one of the University of Essex researchers, their paper on boring people involved collecting opinions as to the most boring jobs, hobbies, and characteristics in five separate surveys and then analyzing that data. To be fair, this sounds like a particularly boring job that the Essex researchers took upon themselves, but sometimes scientists have to take one for the team, it seems. According to the survey, boring people have occupations like data analysis (hear that, scientists?), accounting, tax/insurance, cleaning, and banking. As the study itself is more about analyzing what people perceive as boring rather than any organic development of boring characteristics, it should not be surprising that the scientists did not manage to isolate the so-called, possibly mythical “boring gene.” However, this paper is just one step towards the grand goal of figuring out how boring people got to be the way they are, so we’ll cut them a break.
The paper went on to describe the main hobbies of boring people as being sleeping, religion, watching TV, observing animals, and doing mathematics. We ourselves would take exception as to some of these being “boring,” as sleep is both inherently necessary for the health and survival of most living organisms, and if you’ve ever watched an angry goose chase someone, you would know observing animals is hardly boring. It is also questionable whether “religion” can or should be thought of as a hobby, as it would hardly seem that nuns are hobbyist, but to be fair to the researchers, they were just writing down what they were told about boring people, by boring people. In an actual interesting discovery, there is apparently a consistent correlation in the perception of being boring with being perceived of as incompetent. While that seems unfair to boring people, apparently we assume if you are boring, you are also not good at things.
While it is easy to make jokes about boring people (and fun!), the researchers behind the study in question are actually doing a positive thing (unlike some other scientists). By studying perceptions of what it means to be boring, they are helping to examine the origins and effects of harmful stereotypes and gaining a greater understanding of what they say about larger culture. But of course, if you ever truly need to understand boring people, there’s only one thing you need to pay attention to.