Decoding Laziness – Are Lazy People Smarter?


5 Min Read

Recently, some researchers piqued our interests by suggesting that lazy people are perhaps lazy because they are smarter. But laziness and what it could mean is a lot deeper to comprehend and definitely not something to be taken lightly or be rewarded.

To solve a difficult problem, give it to a lazy person. They will find the easiest way out – so goes the word on the street, with even people like Bill Gates echoing this wisdom! So are lazy people smarter or do they just do the bare minimum to scrape through situations? Let’s find out!

Lazy Or In Deep Thought?

One group of researchers in Florida were intrigued by what laziness really meant. Why do some people prefer a more inactive lifestyle, seemingly “deep in thought”? They administered a classic questionnaire-based test to two sets of candidates – thinkers and non-thinkers, on the basis of the trait of “need for cognition.” (The “need for cognition” is a psychology term to indicate a personality type that is more inclined toward effortful cognitive activities.) The participants were given activity trackers to wear for the following week. Results showed that the thinkers were far less active than the non-thinkers. The thinkers preferred to spend time on their own thoughts while the other group probably got bored more easily and needed physical activity to stay alert and engaged. The study did have some gaps (like weekend data not showing any difference between the groups and the impact of candidates’ occupation on activity levels not being factored in), but it gets us thinking alright. Is having the trait of “need for cognition” a direct reflection of intelligence or a decoy for laziness?1 Although the study may have given lazy people a reason to celebrate, it appears to be early days to take it too seriously. And, in the meantime, arguments stack up on the other side!

Output Failure

In his seminal book The Myth of Laziness, Dr Mel Levine writes about how laziness is really a myth. He starts with the theory that mankind was not originally wired to be lazy. We are programmed to act, achieve, grow, and progress. We constantly seek actions that will move us forward and give us recognition and self-satisfaction. We have a basic drive to be productive. In some of us, when the actions don’t produce results, an output failure leads to low achievement, and, subsequently, lower effort – which is viewed as laziness. This is the way lazy people are wired, he explains. They need help to remove the obstacles and achieve their objective. But being branded lazy – and thus getting some validation for their laziness – doesn’t help. It just gives the mind an excuse to rationalize underachievement and be ok with it!2

Extreme Laziness?

What if laziness was not just about bunking a class or sleeping in to skip a long to-do list? What if it was much bigger than failing to try harder? A British Medical Journal report pointed out that certain people may actually have a medical condition involving extreme laziness called motivational deficiency disorder (MDD). Citing an Australian study, it suggested that the “overwhelming and debilitating apathy” can even be fatal – because a person with MDD may even lose the motivation to breathe.3 Turned out the report was an April Fool’s Day hoax! Yes, a prank, but one which sought to raise awareness against “disease mongering,” that is, over-sensationalizing common conditions such as laziness and giving them undue importance.

What Laziness May Actually Mean

Even with researchers who are at loggerheads, one consensus emerges – laziness, if overlooked, can impact your life detrimentally. Hiding under the garb of laziness can only lead you to a hugely unfulfilling life, spiraling into other health issues like obesity, low motivation levels, and depression.4 If your laziness also translates to a general lack of energy and fatigue that bogs you down, a vitamin or mineral deficiency (such as magnesium, B12, or iron) may be to blame and will need immediate attention. In fact, in her book The Vitamin Complex, Catherine Price points out how “scurvy [as a result of vitamin C deficiency] starts with lethargy so intense that people once believed laziness was a cause, rather than a symptom, of the disease.”5 Inactivity may also be the subconscious choice of a weak heart that tires quickly, while depression may compel you to be lazy, anti-social, and reclusive.

Ancient sciences like Ayurveda too refuse to condone laziness, suggesting simple and natural routines to keep the various doshas in balance and avoid the sloth bug. Ideally, we should be able to enjoy the creativeness of vata, the intelligence from pitta, and the steadiness from kapha. Excess kapha dosha can manifest in laziness and lethargy, and you can undo this by spending more time outdoors and through exercise and movement.6

Don’t Glorify Laziness

Researchers have tried but, for now, there isn’t any conclusive proof to suggest that lazy folks are actually much more intelligent and just prefer a thoughtful and inactive life. On the other hand, laziness can point to physical, mental, and motivational issues that may require immediate intervention. Remember, humans are wired to be active and productive. So do watch out for excessive laziness and sort out the root cause!

References   [ + ]

1.McElroy, Todd, David L. Dickinson, Nathan Stroh, and Christopher A. Dickinson. “The physical sacrifice of thinking: Investigating the relationship between thinking and physical activity in everyday life.” Journal of health psychology (2015): 1359105314565827.
2.Levine, Mel. The myth of laziness. Simon and Schuster, 2003.
3, 4.Moynihan, Ray. “Scientists find new disease: motivational deficiency disorder.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 332, no. 7544 (2006): 745.
5.Price, Catherine. Vitamin B Complex. Oneworld Publishing. 2015.
6.Lad, Vasant. The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. Harmony, 1999.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.