Ever spent an entire day in bed and got up in the evening feeling no better off?

295e11bb 44ee 4ae4 a85c f30aa35ac182 Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn Tiring

The evolutionary explanation for our choice of behavior is obvious, to conserve energy. A study published in July has proposed that when given the choice between doing something or not doing something we will take the lazy option near on every time. The paper published in psychological science proposes that we’d be happier if we spent the time actively than standing around, even if that activity was walking round in circles.

So far so good, yada yada. Heres where it gets fishy…. The study (ironicly conducted in a business school) reviewed a stack of research confirming the above and suggesting we live in a paradox in which:

1. We dread Idleness and crave activity

2. We need reason for activity and won’t enter in to it voluntarily

This led the authors to consider a rather startling hypothesis:

“busy people are happier than idle people, regardless of whether they choose to be busy or are forced to be busy” (Hsee et al 2010)
stalin Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn Tiring
The researchers proceed to perform a strangely elaborate test on the participants. The experimenter gave the participants a chocolate bar in return for them completing an inconsequential questionairre and then gave them the choice to hand back the questionnaire or walk back to the experimenter’s office and return it to a pigeon-hole. They were then asked to rate the chocolate on how good it tasted. The participants that walked thought the chocolate tasted nicer.
wonka bar Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn Tiring
Sorry, rewind! Never mind the possible spurious variables… like the effect of exercise on us wanting chocolate, or the limitations in application (or “ecological validity” as us Psych buffs call it), or happiness being a far more complex an emotion than taste, or that taste is not really even an emotion at all. Or the possibility that it might have just been a friendly act to walk the paper back and these friendly people also surprise surprise were less likely to say “your free chocolate tasted like arse, thankyou very much”. Or the fact that this entire experiment is about bloody chocolate bars. Despite all of this, this somehow led the researchers to the conclusion:
“people are happier when busy than when idle, even if busyness is forced upon them”
Pardon me but that sounds awfully like the Scientific equivalent of discerning the meaning of life from Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. In fact scratch that, that sounds like a much better idea all together.
charlie and the chocolate factory 9 Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn TiringNow I’m just going to go ahead and be lazy and quote directly from the “Implications” section of this thesis, because to sumarise just wouldn’t do it justice:
“We advocate a third kind of busyness: futile busyness, namely, busyness serving no purpose other than to prevent idleness. Such activity is more realistic than constructive busyness and less evil than destructive busyness.”
It gets better…
wow bridge Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn Tiring
“This is where paternalism can play a role (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). For example, homeowners may increase the happiness of their idle housekeepers by letting in some mice and prompting the housekeepers to clean up. Governments mayincrease the happiness of idle citizens by having them build bridges that are actually useless.”
big brother Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn Tiring
Get ready, Big Brothers coming… and this time he’s bringing his whip!
NB: Believe it or not this is not a new idea, it’s being going on for ages. Larson (1987) proposed that airport customers would be happier aimlessly trekking it round the air port in circles than causing trouble  by baggage reclaim or heaven forbid perhaps reading a book.

airportmaze2 Why Airports Suck So Much and Doing Nothing Can Be So Damn Tiring

Well, if it fails to make people happy it’s one way to solve an unemployment problem at least… sigh

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christian yoga pose wide le Do The Chicken Walk

Continuing the sexual theme (we’ll get to the drugs and rock and roll soon I promise), in this piece I’ll be reviewing a rather ridiculus paper that I first came across (doing believe-it-or-not actual legitimate research on sexuality) as part of my psych course (yes really, if Freud taught us anything it’s that psychology professors tend to be obsessed with sex)… The title of the paper is A Woman’s History of Vaginal Orgasm is Discernible from Her Walk (no I’m not kidding). This paper, published in Belgium, is a couple of years old now, but here goes. The paper opens (read, let’s us know exactly where the authors stand) by bigging up all the benefits of penetration over, well all the stuff in between (involving the clitoris). The authors explain how clitoral sensory information is transmitted down the spinal cord directly in to the brain whilst feeling from inside the vajayjay is transmitted up a separate pathway (one of the cranial nerves). Therefore, even women who have a fully severed spinal cord can still experience vaginal orgasm but not the clit kind. ShockedWoman1 Do The Chicken Walk

The authors go on to argue on that basis that essentially sex with a willy makes women feel better than just clitoral stimulation because it results in a substancially greater release in prolactin (Gold award for geekiest chat up line ever, right there). According to the authors, inability to orgasm vaginally makes women everything from more psychologically immature to less happy with life in general. No comment.

Next we get to the weird stuff, the study goes on to cite a pretty morbid study I’ll just quote…

In older persons, slower walking speed and lesser stride length were both associated with increased risk of dependency, mortality, and institutionalization in a three-year follow up period

Seriously? A study was needed to find that old people that walk slow are probably going to pop their clogs before their peers that are still merrily bouncing along. The answer is yes, that actually happened. For the record, (something the current study neglects to mention) the sample in this study was “chinese men over 70 years of age”.

330002949 b0109caf67 b Do The Chicken Walk

Old Chinese Men

I wouldn’t dispute this study on old chinese men (and cardiovascular discorder), just question why it was cited in relation to… er… dutch university age women and their sex lives. I could have cited a study about Granny Smith apples harvested in melbourne and it would have been more relevant. The only thing that connects that study to this one is that it’s to do with walking.

apple Do The Chicken Walk

Okay I'm struggling to find "safe for work" images on this one alright

So far so good, next the study cites possibly the weirdest piece of academic research I’ve ever seen, as definitive fact, brace youselves for the least politically correct thing you’ve heard all year…

Relative movement of hips and shoulders provide fairly accurate indicators to differentiate (in different directions) male and female homosexual and heterosexual walkers.
wtf Do The Chicken Walk
WHOOOAH… at some point I’ll get round to tearing apart this nutty paper, if you want to beat me to it please go ahead, I really can’t be arsed to read this bollocks right now so for now I’m going to concentrate on the text in hand. So on to the intriguing bit… the method.

The researcher went up to 20 (a pretty tiny sample for such a broad claim) dutch female psychology students and persuaded them to fill in a questionairre about how often they did it, and in which ways. Of those 20, 4 dropped out (only four??). The researcher then filmed the women walking up and down the street in either two conditions, imagining they were on a beach and imagining they were with a man they liked. “Participants were blind to the hypothesis”, read participants were very, very confused.

professor 111x300 Do The Chicken Walk

The videos were then rated by two “professors of sexology” and two research assistants. The rating was based on…

“free, fluid, energetic, sensual manner of walking (with an emphasis on energy flow through the rotation of the pelvisand the spine)”
This presumerably is contrary to the traditional, legs crossing, hips swinging, cat-walk style sexy walk. However there was no measure of this (or any other type of walk) The sexologists were correct 81.25% of the time. Supposedly this is higher than the score the average group of lads on tour would get if asked which out of a line of of ladies they guessed were likely to get around a lot. (Obviously this little matter was not tested because it would ruin the position of the “sexologists” entirely, and in fairness this study was pretty lucky to get through ethics in the first place.)
 wsb 389x344 LADS+ON+THE+LASH+1+READY+SQUARE Do The Chicken Walk
An exploration of the data (i.e. putting all of the data into a stats ananalysis program to see what stand out – 9 times out of 10 something will just out of pure randomness) suggested that:

(stride length + vertebral rotation) is greater for vaginally orgasmic women

The experimenters admit this is probably a random finding, which begs the question of how this study ever got published in the first place… and yes, I’m not making this up this was a genuine study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 5, Issue 9 (p 2119-2124). The whole text is available free to download here and if you feel you need to keep it for prosperity here is the PDF.

Bizzarely, this paper isn’t a rare occurance, theres whole volumes of this stuff (add the word psychology for the truely nutty ones), presumerable because sex sells and the fact that this paper is being reproduced two years later, in this blog only goes to prove that rule. (Oh dear, have I broken rule #1 already?).

As I am (thank god) no-longer studying this area of psychology as part of my course I’m not going to be coming across as much of this from now on so if you find a particularly ridiculus or earth shattering piece you come across that you’d like to see reviewed just drop it to neurobonkers@gmail.com. Happy walking!

A big thank you to Ben Goldacre for bringing this back to our attention on his twitter.

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