Bored people may turn to pornographic content to distract from the perception that their life is meaningless, according to new research published in Personality and Individual Differences.
“Previously, my colleagues and I found that when people experience boredom, it poses a threat to their sense of meaning in life. As an escape from this adverse existential experience, people may subsequently engage in hedonic behaviors,” explained study author Andrew B. Moynihan of the University of Limerick.
“We found that people may engage in unhealthy eating, impulsiveness, or endorse promiscuous attitudes in this context. In the current paper, we investigated whether pornography consumption, at least in some circumstances, may also serve as an escape from the threat to meaning in life posed by boredom.”
The study, which surveyed 179 adults living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, found that boredom proneness and emotional avoidance mediated the association between perceived meaninglessness and pornography use.
In other words, people who agreed with statements such as “My life has no clear purpose” were more likely to agree with statements such as “In most situations, it is hard for me to find something to do or see to keep me interested” and “It [pornography] provides an opportunity to be distracted from life’s challenges,” which in turn was related to more frequent pornography use.
Greater perceived meaninglessness was also associated with using pornography for sexual pleasure and to provide novelty in life.
“This paper contributes to psychological research on pornography consumption by highlighting how it may be used for emotional avoidance, excitement seeking, and sexual pleasure in response to boredom,” Moynihan told PsyPost.
“Specifically, our study suggests that pornography consumption, at least in some circumstances, may function as a means of dealing with perceived meaninglessness, signaled by boredom. Our study incorporates pornography consumption as a means of existential escape from threats to meaning in life. To our knowledge, this phenomenon has not been researched previously in the existential escape literature.”
The findings are in line with a previous study, which found that perceived meaninglessness was associated with sexual sensation seeking via boredom susceptibility. But the authors noted that it is not possible to establish temporal relationships between the variables because of the cross-sectional nature of their research, making it difficult to determine whether perceived meaninglessness caused the observed outcomes.
“Future research should aim to replicate the findings in our paper using experience sampling or experimental methods, longitudinal, or (latent) cross-lagged designs,” Moynihan said.
The “Pornography consumption as existential escape from boredom“, was authored by Andrew B. Moynihan, Eric R. Igou, and Wijnand A.P. van Tilburg.