Laziness could be contagious, says new study

You might consider yourself a go-getter, ambitious or hardworking, but surround yourself with people who have slightly more slothful tendencies and you could find your standards slipping. According to a new study, traits such as laziness and impatience may be ‘contagious’ – backing the adage that you are the company you keep.

Researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) asked 56 people to make decisions based on scenarios, which involved risks, delays or effort.

The participants were then asked to predict how others might approach the particular scenarios. Researchers then showed participants how other people responded and asked them to make their decisions again.

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Even though the answers that the researchers showed participants were actually fictional and generated using a compute algorithm, participants changed their second answers accordingly. People also believed that their thoughts about each scenario would be similar to fellow participants. The researchers also say that people are largely unaware of these biases.

Lead author Jean Daunizeau told TIME that the findings are significant because traits like laziness, impatience and caution are thought to be unique individuals, yet the research showed these seemingly personal characteristics to be influenced by the behaviour and attitudes of others.

“They drive most of our daily decisions, which are made of trade-offs between the prospect of reward, and costs such as risk, effort and delay.”

The researchers highlight that although further study is needed, and the findings don’t mean you need to ditch your lazier companions, there’s no harm surrounding yourself with people whose ethic and values you admire.

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The study was published in PLOS Computational Biology.


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