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Americans’ Yen to be Busy Can Have Unintended Results

Americans like to be doing something and it does not have to be anything in particular — just something.

Classically, when psychologists think about why people do what they do, they tend to look for specific goals, attitudes, and motivations. However, this may be the wrong approach as they may be missing something more general — that people just generally like to be active.

A new article in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science provides a review of what experts look at when they study activity.

Author Dolores Albarracin, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said she started paying attention to people’s different levels of activity in various countries and saw how much busier people are in the U.S. relative to other areas.

“People have this inclination to do more, even if what they do is trivial,” she said.

In recent years, she has been doing research on how people feel about activity, including how easily she could change the level of activity that people aimed for.

In one set of experiments, for example, she found that getting people to think about physical activity made them more interested in political activity.

Surprisingly, the desire for activity may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as snacking on high calorie foods or other forms of impulsive behaviors. In fact, experiments have shown that the desire for activity is quite strong; people will go to a lot of trouble to maintain their desired level of activity.

Many psychologists have “the idea that people have these highly specific goals,” Albarracin said. “But quite often some significant proportion of our time is engaged in this global level—we want to do something, but what we do ends up not mattering much. You could end up with productive behavior, like work, or impulsive behavior, like drug use.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Americans’ Yen to be Busy Can Have Unintended Results

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Americans’ Yen to be Busy Can Have Unintended Results. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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