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People who are bored behave more sadistically to mitigate the effects of being disinterested

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They say idle hands are a devil’s playground, but a new study suggests a disinterested mind may always be an amusement park for evil. 

Researchers at Aarhus University found people who are bored will behave more sadistically to mitigate feelings of boredom – this includes viewing images of injured people or even thinking about harming others.

The team reviewed nine studies that involved more than 4,000 people in total and concluded sadistic tendencies are more pronounced among people who report chronic proneness to boredom in everyday life.

The studies included military personal acting sadistic when bored on post, parents finding enjoyment in their child’s misfortune and the act of hurting a worm because the individual was not satisfied with watching a movie. 

Researchers at Aarhus University found people who are bored will behave more sadistically to mitigate feelings of boredom - this includes viewing images of injured people or even thinking about harming others

Researchers at Aarhus University found people who are bored will behave more sadistically to mitigate feelings of boredom – this includes viewing images of injured people or even thinking about harming others

Sadism is a psychosexual disorder in which sexual urges are gratified by the infliction of pain on another person.

It is also sometimes considered as a ‘dark’ personality trait next to narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

And now when boredom sets in, sadistic behavior seems to follow.

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, which compiles several studies to see exactly how the two are linked, Research Digest reports.

The team reviewed nine studies that involved more than 4,000 people in total and concluded sadistic tendencies are more pronounced among people who report chronic proneness to boredom in everyday life

The team reviewed nine studies that involved more than 4,000 people in total and concluded sadistic tendencies are more pronounced among people who report chronic proneness to boredom in everyday life

The first study included 1,780 people from the US, Germany and Denmark, who completed personality assessments and scales that measured how likely they are to feel bored in their everyday lives.

Participants were asked to report how much they relate to specific statements like ‘Many things I have to do are monotonous and repetitive’ and ‘I often find myself at ‘loose ends.’

They were also asked to report if they had been cruel to people in high school or enjoyed hurting or humiliating others.

The study showed that those who reported being bored also admitted to the sadistic behavior.

The researchers then reviewed studies that looked at boredom and sadism among different types of peoples and in different settings.

One focused on US military members, who would behave sadistically toward each other when bored during their service.

Although not cited in the paper, the US military has come under fire for hazing and such incidents have been reported in all branches: marines, army, navy and air force.

Another study explored if parents act sadistically toward their children.

The research included participants from the US, Canada and the UK, who were asked if they enjoy laughing at their child’s expense or got pleasure out of harming their child.

The results showed that if either were reported, the parent also noted they were bored at the time and used the sadistic behavior to alleviate the feeling.  

Researchers wrote in their paper that this work ‘points to a potential cause of child maltreatment that has not so far been considered in empirical research.’

To explore the link between boredom and sadism even further, the team looked at work that involved experimentally-induced boredom, as the previous studies were all self-reported boredom.

In one experiment, participants were not allowed to have a smartphone or anything that would distract them while they sat in a cubicle watching a 20-minute film of a waterfall.

However, participants were given three cups each holding a maggot and a modified coffee grinder, and were allowed to put the worm through the grinder to pass the time. 

One study was on US military members, who would behave sadistically toward each other when bored. Although not cited in the paper, the US military has come under fire for hazing and such incidents have been reported in all branches: marines, army, navy and air force

One study was on US military members, who would behave sadistically toward each other when bored. Although not cited in the paper, the US military has come under fire for hazing and such incidents have been reported in all branches: marines, army, navy and air force 

The study notes that the maggot was not harmed if this happened. 

Out of the 129 participants, only 13 tried to shred the maggot and they linked this action to a feeling of pleasure. 

‘Conversely, when there is no alternative, boredom increases sadistic behavior across the board, even among individuals low in dispositional sadism,’ the team wrote in the new study.

‘We further show that excitement and novelty seeking mediate the effects of boredom, and that boredom not only promotes sadistic (proactive) aggression, but reactive aggression as well.

‘Overall, the present work contributes to a better understanding of sadism and highlights the destructive potential of boredom.’

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