If you’ve always been told by your friends and family that you’re too lazy or need to get up off the couch more, they may have actually been complimenting you this entire time. New research has revealed that people who are lazy, or more inactive, tend to have higher IQs.

Study on Laziness and IQ

In a study by  researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University, it was revealed that laziness might actually be an indication of having a high IQ (4). The study, published in the Journal of Health Psychology earlier this year, wanted to explore the relationship between thinking and physical activity in everyday life.

To select a sample of 60 students from the university for the experiment, around 1,000 students took part in an online questionnaire, to determine their attitude towards a “need for cognition” essentially, whether they felt thinking was something important or needed.

The test asked the participants to rate how much they agree with statements such as  “I only think as hard as I have to” and “I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions.” and from this, the researchers found people who highly identified with either end of the scale. The result was two distinct groups – “thinkers” (those who showed a strong desire to think a lot) and “non-thinkers” (those who showed they preferred to avoid doing anything too mentally taxing).

The two groups were then fitted with fitness trackers to measure their physical activity (or inactivity) during a seven-day period and the results were quite surprising.

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The Results

After a week of physical activity measurement, all the data was collected and analyzed and a significant trend emerged among the participants. These results showed that the “thinkers” group were much less physically active than the “non-thinkers” from Monday to Friday. Oddly, on the weekend, the activity levels were the same – something the researchers were unable to explain.

Are Smart People Lazy?

There are a few different ideas as to what might be at the root of this. One such suggestion aligns with previous research which proposed that “non-thinkers” are more prone to boredom (5). These people may not be content with simply sitting with their own thoughts in the way “thinkers” might, and would perhaps turn to physical activity to quench their boredom. People with a higher IQ tend to be happier to be alone with their thoughts, preventing boredom, and not producing the same feelings that they need to get out and do something to occupy themselves.

People with a higher IQ tend to be happier to be alone with their thoughts, preventing boredom, and not leading to those same feelings that they need to get out and do something to occupy themselves.

There have been some comments about the sample size and duration both being rather low, which the researchers themselves noted, and commented that further research could still be done. The fact that the trackers measured very similar levels of physical activity on the weekend for both groups certainly calls for a need for more research. They go on to suggest that the “weekend effect” may be to do with the fact that the participants are students and so would exhibit young-adult behavior, which is quite different to adult behavior.

If you feel like this is just an excuse to spend your evenings sat on the couch, though, you should take into consideration the lead researcher Todd McElroy’s comments, “Ultimately, an important factor that may help more thoughtful individuals combat their lower average activity levels is awareness,” said McElroy.

“Awareness of their tendency to be less active, coupled with an awareness of the cost associated with inactivity. More thoughtful people may then choose to become more active throughout the day.”

1. You’re Not Lazy, You Have A High IQ, Study Suggests. IFLScience. 2016. Available at: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/youre-not-lazy-you-have-a-high-iq-study-suggests/. Accessed September 6, 2016. 

2. Laziness is a sign of high intelligence, suggests new study. Telegraphcouk. 2016. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/09/laziness-is-a-sign-of-high-intelligence-suggests-new-study/. Accessed September 6, 2016.

3. Are brainy people lazy? “Need For Cognition” correlates with less physical activity – Research Digest. Digestbpsorguk. 2016. Available at: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2016/08/06/are-brainy-people-lazy-need-for-cognition-correlates-with-less-physical-activity/. Accessed September 6, 2016.

4. McElroy T, Dickinson D, Stroh N, Dickinson C. The physical sacrifice of thinking: Investigating the relationship between thinking and physical activity in everyday life. Journal of Health Psychology. 2016;21(8):1750-1757. Available at: http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/21/8/1750.full.pdf+html. Accessed September 6, 2016.

5. Watt JBlanchard M. Boredom Proneness and the Need for Cognition. Journal of Research in Personality. 1994;28(1):44-51. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656684710051. Accessed September 6, 2016.

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