Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

To make one happy, make one busy

Date:
July 29, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
A new study found that people who have something to do, even something pointless, are happier than people who sit idly.

A new study in Psychological Science found that people who have something to do, even something pointless, are happier than people who sit idly.

In Greek mythology, the gods punished Sisyphus by condemning him to roll a rock up a steep hill for eternity. But he was probably better off than if they'd condemned him to sit and stare into space until the end of time, conclude the authors of a new study on keeping busy. They found that people who have something to do, even something pointless, are happier than people who sit idly.

"The general phenomenon I'm interested in is why people are so busy doing what they are doing in modern society," says Christopher K. Hsee, of the University of Chicago. He co-wrote the study with Adelle X. Yang, also of the University of Chicago, and Liangyan Wang, of Shanghai Jiaotong University. "People are running around, working hard, way beyond the basic level." Sure, there are reasons, like making a living, earning money, accruing fame, helping others, and so on. But, Hsee says, "I think there's something deeper: We have excessive energy and we want to avoid idleness."

For the study, volunteers completed a survey, then had to wait 15 minutes before the next survey would be ready. They could drop off the completed survey at a nearby location and wait out the remaining time or drop it off at a location farther away, where walking back and forth would keep them busy for the 15 minutes. Either way, they would receive a candy when they handed in their survey. Volunteers who chose to stay busy by going to the faraway location were found to be happier than those who chose to be idle.

Not everyone chose to go to the faraway location. If the candies offered at the two locations were the same, the subjects were more likely to choose to stay idle. But if the candies offered at the two locations were different, they were more likely to choose the far location -- because they could make up a justification for the trip, Hsee and his colleagues say. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Hsee thinks it may be possible to use this principle -- people like being busy, and they like being able to justify being busy -- to benefit society. "If we can devise a mechanism for idle people to engage in activity that is at least not harmful, I think it is better than destructive busyness," he says. Hsee himself has been known to give a research assistant a useless task when he doesn't have anything for them to do, so he isn't sitting around the office getting bored and depressed. "I know this is not particularly ethical, but he is happy," says Hsee.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "To make one happy, make one busy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729101615.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, July 29). To make one happy, make one busy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729101615.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "To make one happy, make one busy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729101615.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins