Lazy people are more likely to enjoy thinking, new research finds.
On the other hand, those with who don’t enjoy it need to ‘do more stuff’ in order to escape their own thoughts.
Previous studies have found that people who like to think more have better memories and often take more time to make decisions and end up making better ones.
The study revolved around a psychological measure called ‘need for cognition’.
Need for cognition measures the extent to which people like to think.
Here are a couple of question from a test for need for cognition:
- People with high need for cognition tend to agree with the statement: “I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems”
- People with low need for cognition tend to agree with the statement: “I only think as hard as I have to”
Those who have a low need-for-cognition — or ‘non-thinkers’ — tend to become bored more easily.
Boredom leads to the need to escape and do something else.
But, if you enjoy sitting around thinking, then there’s less motivation to keep busy.
The study’s authors write:
“Thus, high-NFC [need-for-cognition] individuals seem more content to ‘entertain themselves’ mentally, whereas low-NFC individuals quickly experience boredom and experience it more negatively.”
For the research 60 people took a test of need for cognition and were given a device to wear which measured their movement.
After 7 days it was clear that the ‘non-thinkers’ were much more active than the ‘thinkers’.
The study’s authors suggest that awareness may help thinkers combat their lower activity levels:
“…an important factor that may help more thoughtful individuals combat their lower average activity levels is awareness.
Awareness of their tendency to be less active, coupled with an awareness of the cost associated with inactivity, more thoughtful individuals may then choose to become more active throughout the day.”
At the weekends, though, the difference was less pronounced, with both groups showing similar activity levels.
The study’s authors write:
“…activity levels for high- and low-NFC individuals did not differ significantly
It is important to note that part of the ‘weekend effect’ in our study may be due to our sample population, which consisted of college students.
Although college students are a standard participant pool in the vast majority of experimental psychology studies, their behavior and habits may be more indicative of young adult behavior than adult behavior in general.
It is reasonable to assume that this ‘weekend effect’ may change as people progress through different life stages.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology (McElroy et al., 2016).