This Week in Spun Science: “Being Lazy is a Sign of Intelligence”

Posted on August 12th, 2016 Dan

Lazy PersonMillions of couch potatoes just grabbed another beer, thanks to a new Scientific Study™ wich proves* that laziness is a sign of intelligence.

*I actually read the study, and it proves nothing of the sort. The word “lazy” doesn’t appear anywhere in the paper.

This is a psychology case study masquerading as population study, which the corporate media has spun into their own talking points, bearing no resemblance to the original data. In fact, this study and several that it cites suggest the exact opposite– that intelligent or high NFC (Need For Cognition- their term) individuals are more motivated and try to be more physically active than lower NFC.

For some reason the British press was very into this one and the reporting everywhere was basically an echo-chamber.   telegraph independent daily mail slashdot mirror huff po

Whether “Need for Cognition” translates to intelligence is another serious question. One could argue that sitting around playing video games 10 hours per day is high NFC but certainly won’t require intelligence.   Cogitating on Mario going in and out of pipes all day is not a measure of intelligence.  They didn’t go in detail about their criteria to determine NFC, and the media doesn’t even begin to ask these questions. I guess we’ve reached the point where the corproate media just runs psyops against the public and doesn’t report facts any more.

The research used electronic accelerometer devices to measure activity level over a one week period.  Wearing a device while playing video games would result in little activity measured, yet those people may report themselves as “high NFC” people, depending on the reporting criteria that we aren’t aware of.  Let’s face it, many other studies have indicated that people consistently think they are smarter than they are.

The data, if we take it at face value, suggest that high NFC people tend toward occupations which make them less active.  I concur with this, being in software development and biotech, and “needing cognition.” I can earn far more money doing software than farming or playing tennis, although I enjoy all three. It’s a constant struggle to maintain fitness working on a computer, and I’ve gone so far as to have a standing workspace in my office.  Full time sedentary office jobs are deadly.

In no way does this study mean intelligent people are lazy though, nor that laziness is a sign of intelligence.

One major problem with drawing any conclusions about populations from this study is the sampling:

The participants in this study were 30 high- and 30 low-NFC individuals; 45 of the participants
were female. The conditions were roughly equal in regard to gender; 20 females were in the high-NFC condition and 25 in the low-NFC condition. All participants were undergraduate students at Appalachian State University.
There’s huge sampling bias in these all being psychology undergrad students, and mostly female.  This group is going to lean toward certain trait, such as sitting in class on weekdays and doing activities on the weekend, like much of the working population. The study confirms this:

Collapsing across the weekend days, we see that activity levels for high- and low-NFC individuals did not differ significantly

So there you go, the whole notion of smart people being lazy is rubbish. They just work and study more during the week so they’re less physically active.  It’s not laziness, so the corporate media buffoons who ran with this need to retract and apologize.

We can’t begin to say much about “people” in general without looking at thousands of individuals in random, representative samples, and controlling for confounders.  The use of 30 people in each group, and all psych undergrads at that invalidates any conclusions about populations.

To a more important issue, I didn’t agree to have you use my federal tax dollars to investigate such fundamentally unanswerable questions as “are smart people lazy?”

Just sit on your ass and play video games and eat chips if you want.  Don’t ask me to pay for your validation from a university psychology department.

I recommend people read the paper and see just how inconclusive it is. What a waste of research money. Worse, they keep these publicly funded papers behind paywalls so you can’t actually read them, even though you paid for them. Good luck finding it.

Here is the DOI to get you started: 10.1177 1359105314565827


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