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Smart People Tend to Be Lazier, Says New Study

New study confirms my views about IQ and the propensity to exercise

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Antonio Guillem/Dreamstime

"Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes away" is a quip variously attributed to Mark Twain, University of Chicago President Robert Hutchins, and cartoonist Paul Terry. They are all smart people, whichever one said it. Well, according to a new study in the Journal of Health Psychology, physical laziness is associated with being smart. Perhaps another relevant observation is that there are two types of jobs: The first involves moving heavy objects around; and the second is ordering other people to move heavy objects around.

The four psychologists who conducted the study first sorted 60 student subjects on the basis of their "need for cognition." Need for cognition measures the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking. Then they equipped their high and low need for cognition subjects with monitors that measured their physical activity level in 30-second intervals over a 1-week period. What did they find? The researchers report, "The overall findings showed that low-need-for-cognition individuals were more physically active, but this difference was most pronounced during the 5-day work week and lessened during the weekend."

So why the difference? The researchers noted that in earlier studies that "low-NFC [need for cognition] individuals demonstrated a greater propensity toward boredom and more strongly experienced its associated negative effect. High-NFC individuals appear to avoid this because of their ability to provide their own mental stimulation. Thus, high-NFC individuals seem more content to "entertain themselves" mentally, whereas low-NFC individuals quickly experience boredom and experience it more negatively."

Or as one of my aunts admonished me: Boredom is a moral failing.

By the way, libertarians show the highest need for cognition of all political groupings.