Here’s why laziness spreads uncontrolled: It is contagious, say researchers.


Do you have lazy friends or coworkers? Their attitude can rub off on you, according to a new study which shows that people tend to imitate behaviours of laziness, impatience and prudence.

Prudence, impatience and laziness are personality traits that guide how people make decisions that involve taking a risk, delaying an action and making an effort, said Jean Daunizeau, from the Brain and Spine Institute (ICM) in France.

Prudence is a preference for avoiding risk, and impatience is a preference for options that involve little delay and a strong desire for a payoff now rather than later.

Lazy people are those who determine that the potential rewards are not worth the effort.

In the study, the researchers recruited 56 healthy people. To measure the participants’ attitudes toward risk, delay and effort, they were given a series of tasks.

Participants were asked to choose between a 90% chance of winning a small payoff in three days or a higher payoff in three months with lower odds.

They were then asked to guess “someone else’s” decisions on a similar task, and after making a selection, they were then told which choice this “other” participant had made.

However, the “someone else” was in fact a computerised model developed by the researchers.

During the final phase of the experiment, the participants repeated the first task, in which they were asked to make their own decisions, Live Science reported.

The researchers found that after the participants observed the prudent, impatient or lazy attitudes of “others” on the task, their own choices about putting in effort, waiting during a delay or taking a risk drifted toward that of others.

In other words, the participants started acting more like the computer-generated study participants.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.


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