If you’re the type to cruise through your working week with minimal effort, it doesn’t mean you’re dumb – it just means you’re damn lazy…and possibly intelligent, according to a study published by the Journal of Health Psychology.
The study headed by Todd McElroy, who is one of the study’s authors and a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University claims that people who spend less time thinking are usually the more physically active type when compared to those who prefer to use brain power alone. This notion may seem familiar to the stereotype of the nerd getting picked last to be on a sports team, but now there’s actual scientific proof and it’s a little more complicated.
McElroy and his team of researchers studied the physical activity of 60 undergraduate students and segregated them into two groups. One group consisted of those with a high need for cognition (NFC) whilst the other was a low NFC group. NFC, according to these researchers are the subject’s “tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive endeavours”.
In other words the researchers found that people who enjoyed solving puzzles had a high NFC as opposed to low NFC people who opted for more mundane tasks that didn’t stimulate the mind. Coming to this conclusion involved pairing the subjects with a device similar to a Fitbit which would record their movements every 30 seconds. Each person accrued 20,000 points of data which was then used to compare activity levels across the two groups. The result? A substantial difference between people with low NFC and high NFC.
During the week those with low NFC were much more active than those with high NFC. On the weekends the data would return less of a difference, indicating that both groups were more prone to lounging around.
According to Vice who pointed to an article by the Independent, cognition level isn’t a reflection of one’s intelligence. “People with lower IQs can enjoy a contemplative life and a good cognitive challenge, for instance. Similarly, plenty of people with high IQs dislike using their brain in challenging ways.”
So what exactly is the reason for being lazy? McElroy believes simple motivation is a key factor in a person’s physical activities. People could be opting for longer bouts of physical activity when they’re avoiding a challenging mental task. Think going for a “ten-minute” walk when you’re supposed to be smashing out that 20-page report. Funnily enough the study concludes that society shouldn’t judge those who like to like to lounge around as lazy.
“Just because you seem to be lazy, or what people would qualify as lazy, you actually might be engaging in some type of higher motivated thought,” says McElroy. On the flip side, those who are intelligent are similarly aware of the health risks of a lazy lifestyle even though they mightn’t act on it. “They are cognisant of it, but by the same token, if you’re engaged in thinking and thinking activities, you’re normally not moving.”
McElroy and his researchers plan to investigate this subject further in a bid to discover what subjects are doing when they’re not physically moving.