Yeah, People Really Are Geared to Follow the Path of Least Resistance

Yeah, People Really Are Geared to Follow the Path of Least Resistance

Let’s be real: Who’s never procrastinated the night before a big assignment was due, or stayed home all night flopped on the couch instead of heading over to a friend’s dinner party? Show of hands. Anyone? We’d bet that number is really, really small because people, deep down, are just lazy, slothful turds that will try to take the easy road whenever possible.

Don’t believe it? A new study from the University College London showed that when push comes to shove, the human brain is genetically predisposed to perceive anything that seems challenging to be the less attractive option.

To figure this out, researchers asked 52 people to look at a screen and determine whether a cloud of dots was moving to the left or right. To show their decisions, they moved a handle in either their left or right hand in agreement. As the test went on, the sneaky scientists subtly added some resistance to one handle, which made the testers biased against the more difficult movement and concluded with them not choosing that side.

The takeaway? Our minds have no problem faking us out and encouraging us to take the easy way out, and can even alter what we’re seeing to make that decision seem logical, commented study co-author Nobuhiro Hagura, Ph.D.

But that’s not all bad, says Patrick Haggard, Ph.D., from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience—instead, it might even help us figure out how to get around our inherent laziness. “Most behavioral change focuses on promoting a desired behavior, but our results suggest you could also make it less likely that people see the world a certain way, by making a behavior more or less effortful. Perhaps the parent who places the jar of biscuits”—he means cookies, America—”on a high shelf actually makes them look less tasty to the toddler playing on the floor.”

In the meantime, if the path of least resistance keeps leading to your couch instead of the gym, try these 15 motivational tricks to set yourself back on track.

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