MUST-READ: Why we get bored of stuff and people

Ever notice that after a while, you get tired of the same things -- whether foods, TV shows, work responsibilities, or -- dare I say it -- people?

Several people have asked me why this happens, so I thought it apropos to create a post that addresses this phenomenon.

The more we're exposed to a given stimulus, the less satisfaction we derive from it over time. In psychology and economics, this is known as the law of diminishing marginal utility. 

Here's the definition provided by

"The law of diminishing marginal utility is a psychological generalization that the perceived value of, or satisfaction gained from, a good to a consumer declines with each additional unit consumed or acquired."

In other words, you can only eat so many Big Macs or watch the same movie so many times before you become completely sick -- which is termed disutility. 

In advertising, wearout is defined as the declining effectiveness of a commercial or campaign due to increased exposure. A commercial might lead to increased sales over the first six months, but after that, consumers might become so tired of seeing it that they'll merely flip channels the moment it comes on.

If the commercial fails to drive people to the cash registers, the company is better off pulling the commercial or it risks hemorrhaging gobs of money.

This raises a big question: Can this apply to people too?

You bet.

Haven't you noticed how elated we become when we meet with a friend or relative whom we haven't seen in months? Whether you're together for two hours or eight, time goes by in a heartbeat, with both people wishing they had more of it to do an inordinate number of things.

Things don't play out in the same fashion when dealing with someone you see more frequently. Take our coworkers. Most of us see these people 40 or more hours per day, five days a week. After a while, you just run out of stuff to talk about, and seeing them persistently doesn't exactly enthrall you, to put it mildly.

Obviously, we shouldn't feel the same way about our partners, whom we may live with and see daily. While the passion in a relationship fades as time wears on, it doesn't mean you should feel bored or annoyed when around your significant other. If that's the case, something is clearly not right.

I think we can all agree on one thing: Newness induces feelings of joy and excitement. A new car, watch, house, relationship -- all these things make us very happy in the beginning. Eventually, however, we grow accustomed to and may even become bored by repeated exposure to these things, prompting us to "trade up."

Interestingly, it doesn't always happen this way. Some of us cling on to jobs for 30 or more years, drive the same car for two decades, or stay in relationships we probably should have ended long ago - all because of routine, longevity, and the impulse to stay in our comfort zone.

It all depends on the person -- we get bored of different things at varying degrees. Some of us simply need more spontaneity and variety in our lives than others.

Without a doubt, there's so much to do in the world -- and so many options at our disposal -- that it almost feels like a crime to complain of being bored in this day and age.


Priscilla King said...

So, those who want a stable home for their children should beware of guys/girls who always want the latest new stuff?

How to Understand People said...

Hi Priscilla. Thanks for reading and commenting. Not sure I understand the question?