Are We Naturally Lazy?

A team of researchers claims to have uncovered an interesting paradox: humans are happier when they’re busy, but we’re inclined towards idleness (“an evolutionary vestige that ensures we conserve energy.”) Christopher K. Hsee, Adelle X. Yang, and Liangyan Wang ran a series of experiments with college students and found that students were inclined towards idleness, but would seize even superficial opportunities to be busy. Furthermore, students who took the opportunity to do something with their downtime reported feeling happier after the experiment. In keeping with the times, the authors see an opportunity for government intervention: “Governments may increase the happiness of idle citizens by having them build bridges that are actually useless.” [%comments]


Reminds me of the ol' Kentucky hillbilly and his son sitting in the house smoking pipes.

"Son, go out and see if it's raining," said the dad.

"Aw, Pa, can't we just call in the dog and see if he's wet?"

Speaking of this matter, I read a "proverb" just the other day that ought to give us all pause. Basically, it asked why we wanted eternal life when we can't even figure out what to do on Saturday.


I, for one, am definitely happy doing stuff. Usually though I am happiest when I am doing things that are not what I _should_ be doing.

Idleness is a way to rebel against structured work. Entertainments are a way to rebel against boredom. Useless work might occupy the mind and the body but in the end you have nothing to appreciate and so its value will be lessened, possibly even inverted. People like to see that the work they have put into something has a lasting effect on others.


Yes, there is nothing more meaningful and satisfying than being enlisted by a bureaucracy to work on a giant, purposeless monument to futility.

When do I start?


to be happy is to be considered by the others as such

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

66% of Americans are FAT; either overweight or obese.

IF LAZY PEOPLE eventually grow FAT, then we have the Morphological Proof of Laziness.

IT is easy to blame our fatness on a conspiracy of corn growers, flavor chemists and big greedy corporations. But hard to examine our own bad habits, overeating, laziness and sloth.

" I just woke up, and my athletic body is not bloated up like a zepplin! IT must have been alien ray technology or a CIA psychological plot!"


In the past 3 years or so I turned into a big video game player. It involves doing nothing but I yet I get so much happiness from it. My handle on the PSN is LaZyTiMe.

Ian Kemmish

Useless or not, I suspect that the people building the bridges would actually have to believe that they were going to be useful, in order for the effect to work. It's hard to believe that that surly teenager serving burgers, although undeniably busy, is happy.

Tolstoy was a firm believer in doing hard manual labour for the good of the soul, much to the amusement of his serfs, apparently.


I've seen way too many happiness surveys and statements recently. "Rich people aren't happy," "having freedoms makes us unhappy," "working makes you happy." All self reported happiness surveys should be abolished.

I could make a happiness survey that said that people preferred being governed by murderous dictators, that doesn't make it true.


yes, make work would very much lead to a great leap forward, and help us create a new man!


I disagree with the point about Governement intervention. By having people build bridges to nowhere wouldn't make them happy. Dave Ramsey tells a story where teenage boys are paid a wage to dig a trench. Then they filled in the trench and asked the boys to come back the next day to dig again and they will be paid more. The next day only half came back, and they repeated the same process paying more each day, but the work was unproductive. The morale of the story is that work has to have meaning in order to do it. I agree people are much more happier when working or being productive. I also agree with Jane Mcgonigal when she talks about the popularity of gaming, because it is a relaxing activity, but it's also productive. Check out her TED talk:

Kevin Pellatiro

Bridges to nowhere? If we choose to go 'civil duty' with this: Wouldn't it be great to see our municipalities create volunteer plans to leverage the pent up demand for activity; or make better use of the time that so many are willing to give for simple tasks?

Having seen Nashville and Franklin, TN come together when there was a common cause (after the recent flooding), through quasi-private organizations like Hands on Nashville - that gave all of something to do for each other - I'd love to see more of this social good applied day to day. Just break down the tasks far enough so that we can all help, right?

Eric M. Jones

Maybe we could build pyramids?

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

In the History of the World:

Work hard all your life and live forever.


We may be entering the era of the lazy! Conservation of energy is the future it seems, so perhaps this old socially unacceptable genetic predisposition will come back into vogue soon.

I can only hope. I'm tired from all the ridicule for trying to save humanity by conserving energy...

Great study, by the way. It seems right on with my personal feelings and my observations. It looks right.


I recently had a conversation about this with a friend. Came up with this:

How long could you clean concrete stadium floors with a toothbrush for $20 an hour? $40/hr? $100/hr? $1000/hr?


I'm just a simple self-employed Unfrozen Caveman Computer Programmer.

Words like "downtime" frighten and confuse me. I don't know. Because I'm a caveman -- that's the way I think.

There is one thing I DO know...I hope to experience this "downtime" as you call it before I sleep in the big box.


Laziness is a boon to mankind ... that is why we invented so many things to make our life easy.

If we were just hard working people we would have been still hunting for animals and not blogging!!!


Aimless persons will be lazy , but a person who knows what to do won't sit idle. have passion and lead a great life.


In an ant hill 50% ants sit idle any time. No way to know other half were happier :)


"Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt