Smart People Tend to Be Lazier, Says New Study

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


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.

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  1. Makes sense.

  2. 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.

    IOW "smart people have 40-hour desk jobs and dumb people don't."

  3. Another study also said high IQ people are messy and curse a lot. I'm 3 for 3!

  4. Wow, so I'm not unbelievably lazy, just super intelligent? I like this conclusion and shall accept it unthinkingly.

  5. I agree. I often find that I am very

    1. ^ I see what you did there...nice.

  6. "Its not that I'm lazy, Bob. I just don't care."

    1. "I wouldn't say I been missing it Bob."

    2. "Let me tell you something about TPS reports..."

  7. I am ostensibly intelligent but also fidgety and get unhappy if I'm out of the gym too long. How does your fancy research explain THAT, HUH?

    1. I actually love the gym now that I am back to setting PRs every week or so.

    2. Too much time staring at women in yoga pants can make you fidgety and a bit frustrated. This was discovered over a decade ago.

    3. Explain that? "Ostensibly." (I kid! I kid!)

  8. or dumb people just think smart people are lazy because of different priorities, "What?! You don't spend your free time organizing your sock drawer/spam inbox/shelves full of trinkets?"

    I guess one doesn't get smarter partaking in activities that are the intellectual equivalent of a kindergartner playing a matching game. Who would've guessed?

  9. So by the criteria of this so-called study, a guy who spends a lot of time daydreaming about getting a blowjob from Margo Robbie gets as much need for cognition points as a guy who spends a lot of time visualizing a new way to design a microchip or get goods to consumers. And the guy who spends a lot of time buzzing about a workplace from one end to the other making sure shit gets done is a dumbass.

    I fucking love science.

    1. It's social science. Anyone who takes it seriously is asking to be misled. If not by the study itself, then often by the media reporting on it.

    2. You got all that from the abstract?

      1. HM: Actually read the study over at researchgate - just clunky to link to it.

        1. It was a joke about being too lazy to read past the abstract.

        2. actually read the study over at researchgate - just clunky LAZY to link to it.

          FTFY, Ron.

          If you are going to go with a self-reporting confirmation study bias of laziness == brilliance, you might as well own it as a natural expression of your genius and see the conclusion through.

          NFC much?

    3. Depends on the workplace. Some of the hardest workers I've known were full on retards.

      1. I can confirm this. My favourite person at work is not very bright at all. Gets shit done, though. Thank Jeebus they're around.

  10. "Here's to not going that extra mil"

    -funnier person than I

  11. The 18 statements from the revised Need for Cognition Scale (Cacioppo et al., 1984) used in the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education are shown below.
    18. I usually end up deliberating about issues even when they do not affect me personally.

    Wabash College? Now I know to precisely invert the results.

    1. I tend to be skeptical of self-reported measures in general.

      1. I'm skeptical of your self-reported skepticism of self-reported measures.

        1. I'm skeptical that it's self-reporting skeptics all the way down.

          1. "30% of men are married to Morgan Fairchild"

            1. Based on a sample size of three men?

              1. By someone with poor math skills (typical social scientist).

  12. *Sigh*

    First, I don't trust that one can draw broad conclusions from a sample size of 60 people. Second, while there will certainly be a spectrum, I would expect college students to have a higher "NFC" than the average population, so it sounds like their experimental group is already biased. Third, this seems to have more to do with the type of work people do than with how they entertain themselves. Fourth, more generally, even assuming that NFC is a good measure, I don't particularly like labeling people with high "NFC" smart. There are different types of intelligence, and I know plenty of people who don't spend their days in front of a computer but who I would consider to be very intelligent.

    Oh, and over-under on how long it takes for someone to do a follow-up study that comes to opposite conclusions?

    Trick question -- follow-up studies are for low-NFC individuals. It is known.

    1. I would expect college students to have a higher "NFC" than the average population, so it sounds like their experimental group is already biased.

      social science researchers rely too much on western college students

      Bonus coverage:
      Article on social science's political biases

    2. I would do a follow up study myself, but I'm way too lazy to bother.

    3. Quit thinking so hard about things!

      You lazy...

    4. Are they intelligent or knowledgeable because there's a difference?

  13. The four psychologists who conducted the study first sorted 60 student subjects on the basis of their "need for cognition.

    60 ... students ... "need for cognition"

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

    You're a dumbass, Ron.

    1. SF: But I have a wicked sense of humor!

      1. But I have a wicked sense of humor!

        Heroic Mulatto|8.11.16 @ 4:53PM|#

        It was a joke about being too lazy to read past the abstract.

        If you have to have the joke explained to you., Ron....

        Now, I see why you wrote another projection vanity article WRT how lazy people are really super awesome subjects of geniusosity. I'm surprised you didn't sneak in a reference to your height percentile as well, in addition to the usual, "libertarians are smartest because NEEDZ FOR ATTENTION, erm, STIMULATION, erm, COGNITION ..," stuff.

        Sorry, Ron, but the NFC premise is questionable at best and reeks of self-flagellation, since the term is basically a fancy way of saying, "Needy."

        1. Since the term is a fancy way of saying *nerdy*.


      2. Oh, you were writing about a study that you know is meaningless. I get it! That's hilarious!

        1. Ron Bailey|8.11.16 @ 4:48PM|#

          HM: Actually read the study over at researchgate - just clunky to link to it.

          Apparently you don't know it's meaningless. Now I'm confused.

  14. Look man you didn't have write an entire article to say that people like Warty are retarded.

  15. 54.5% percent of studies are 76% bullshit.

  16. Also, anecdotally I can think up ~60 people I know and mentally group them by what their NFC scores are likely to be, and outside of work hours (i.e., in leisure time), the "smarter" ones are way more physically active.

    1. I take issue with Ron equivocating "smartness" with NFC. NFC is not the same thing as intelligence. Fleischhauer, Enge, Brocke, Ullrich, Strobel, and Strobel (2010) found that NFC was moderately positively correlated with verbal reasoning, and that the correlation between NFC between numerical and spatial reasoning was not statistically significant. There was a moderate correlation between NFC and g, but that's basically due to 'LOL, statistics!' than anything else. And the Fleischhauer et al. (2010) is much more robust with a pilot study of 152 participants and 157 participants in the actual study.

      1. NFC is not the same thing as intelligence

        I had the same hunch.

        Basically all this study tells us is that people who like to sit around and do nothing also tend to not exercise. Who knew?!

        1. And not being physically active isn't the same thing as being lazy. Is someone who works at a desk all day and goes home and studys on the computer all night lazy?

        2. I never thought about it that way!

  17. I am by far the laziest person I know. Haven't mowed the lawn in ten years. Haven't run the vacuum cleaner in five.
    Clearly I am just dumb enough to post on Reason threads. I do so love the abuse!

  18. Then I must Alvin Fuckin' Einste - screw it, I'm too tired to finish it....

  19. What's the point of being smarter if you don't get anything done?

    1. There's an old story that I remember hearing a while back. There are 4 types of people: smart-lazy, smart-diligent, stupid-lazy, and stupid-diligent. When hiring, you want a bunch of smart-diligent people because they will do lots of good work. You want quite a few smart-lazy people because they'll make things more efficient so they don't have to work as hard. It's okay to have some stupid-lazy people because they don't accomplish or harm things very much. You want to avoid the stupid-diligent people as much as possible because they'll work hard doing the wrong thing and set the project back by years.

      1. That was an observation by Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord regarding the classification of officers:

        I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.

      2. I like this analysis. If you look at Mad Men, Don Draper was smart-lazy. His first wife Betty was kinda stupid/diligent. Peggy was smart/diligent. In fact, most of the women were diligent and most of the men were lazy.

  20. Sure. Smart people find the same tasks other people do to be easy, therefore requiring less work.

  21. Oh, never mind.

  22. People, however "smart", are idiotic to not exercise. How many things in this dumb life that feel good are actually good for you?

  23. Based on this study, I am the smartest man alive.

  24. Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job I've had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.


  25. I went to the survey referenced in the story this article links to in the last sentence. I began taking it and found that it was so biased against conservatives, there was no point in continuing. I couldn't answer questions with my actual perspective, only with liberal caricatures of conservative positions.

    For example, the first section is supposedly on 'fairness'. It includes several questions asking, on a scale, whether I would support arbitrary redistribution of all the globe's wealth based on different factors/needs. Since arbitrary redistribution of global wealth is a totalitarian project, I strongly opposed each option. The survey rated me very low on the 'fairness' scale, as if the answers demonstrated that I don't care about suffering or fairness.

    This framing presupposes leftist ideas about how to best create a fair world. There was no option that considered fair or equal opportunities, only equal outcomes, with the end justifying the means. If I disagree with that notion, as I do, I am rated as uncaring.

  26. So am I smart-stupid-lazy? I spent quite a bit of time not studying for exams to obtain two graduate degrees so I could make the most amount of money while spending the least amount of at work.

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