The feeling of being unfulfilled when something happens that is different from what you expected. You feel that it should be changed to meet your expectations.

You feel dissatisfied when you got less than the standard you were expecting. For example, when you booked a hotel room with ocean view that turns out to overlook a brick wall, when you receive negative feedback for a job you though you did very well, or when your team did not make it to the finals. In each case, you expect a certain standard of quality, comfort, pleasure, or performance that is not fulfilled. The expectation that underlies the dissatisfaction goes beyond a neutral assumption of what is probable to happen, like the expectation that the sun will rise in the morning. There is also a sense that the expected thing should happen1, for instance, because you spent money (e.g. paying for good service) or effort (e.g. studying for a good grade) on it, or because you are naturally entitled to it (e.g. being treated respectfully). Secondly, there is a level of malleability or influence involved in the outcome. You feel that the unfulfilling outcome is not fixed and final, and that it should be changed so that it does meet your expectations2.

In the comic, Murphy receives a sandwich that leaves much to be desired – the bread is wrong and the ingredients are overcooked or artificial.

Movie clips


Typical expressions

“This won’t stand!”

“I want something better than this.”

Murphy's bad day

Comparisons with other emotions

Dissatisfaction & Disappointment

When you are unhappy with an outcome or a situation, you can feel either disappointed or dissatisfied. An important difference between the two is the amount of control that you feel you have over the unfulfilling situation. Feeling disappointment implies that you do not feel that you can (currently) change much about it, and that you have to conform to the situation (which puts disappointment closer to sadness). If you are dissatisfied, however, you feel that you do have some control or influence over the unfulfilling situation, and you want it to change (which puts dissatisfaction closer to frustration or annoyance). For example, if you get a room in a hotel with a lumpy bed and no hot shower, you may feel dissatisfied and demand a better room. However, if the room is actually the very last available hotel room in the city, you may feel disappointed instead, since there is very little you can do about it. Another difference is that dissatisfaction implies that you feel entitled to the desired outcome, while in disappointment you merely hoped for it.

Dissatisfaction & Boredom

People can be bored, occasionally or frequently, and accept it as an unavoidable part of life. Most people have parts of their job and personal life that they are less interested in. However, when people feel that they are unnecessarily unmotivated in certain activities, this can lead to strong dissatisfaction. Especially feeling stuck in the situation that is making you bored can be a source of dissatisfaction. In the case of ‘forced boredom’, this dissatisfaction is often directed at the people or system that is the cause of putting you in the boring situation. In the case of long-lasting ‘motivational boredom’, in which nothing seems interesting anymore, it can have negative repercussions for your overall life satisfaction.

Sources and further reading