Laziness (also called indolence) is a disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so. It is often used as a pejorative; related terms for a person seen to be lazy include couch potato, slacker, and bludger.

Despite Sigmund Freud's discussion of the pleasure principle, Leonard Carmichael notes that "laziness is not a word that appears in the table of contents of most technical books on psychology... It is a guilty secret of modern psychology that more is understood about the motivation of thirsty rats and hungry pecking pigeons as they press levers or hit targets than is known about the way in which poets make themselves write poems or scientists force themselves into the laboratory when the good golfing days of spring arrive."[1] A 1931 survey found that high school students were more likely to attribute their failing performance to laziness, while teachers ranked "lack of ability" as the major cause, with laziness coming in second.[2]


Religious views

One of the seven deadly sins in Catholic thought is sloth, which is often defined as spiritual and/or physical apathy or laziness. Sloth is recommended against in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:12), and 2 Thessalonians 3 and associated with wickedness in one of the parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 25:26). In the Wisdom books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, it is stated that laziness can lead to poverty (Proverbs 10:4, Ecclesiastes 10:18). According to Peter Binsfeld's Binsfeld's Classification of Demons, demon Belphegor is thought to be its chief demon.[3]

See also Protestant work ethic, conscience, catholic social teaching and Rerum Novarum.


Economists have differing views of laziness. Frédéric Bastiat argues that idleness is the result of people focusing on the pleasant immediate effects of their actions rather than potentially negative long-term consequences.[4] Others note that humans seem to have a tendency to seek after leisure. Hal Cranmer writes, "For all these arguments against laziness, it is amazing we work so hard to achieve it. Even those hard-working Puritans were willing to break their backs every day in exchange for an eternity of lying around on a cloud and playing the harp. Every industry is trying to do its part to give its customers more leisure time."[5] Ludwig von Mises writes, "The expenditure of labor is deemed painful. Not to work is considered a state of affairs more satisfactory than working. Leisure is, other things being equal, preferred to travail (work). People work only when they value the return of labor higher than the decrease in satisfaction brought about by the curtailment of leisure. To work involves disutility."[6]


It is common for animals (even those like hummingbirds that have high energy needs) to forage for food until satiated, and then spend most of their time doing nothing, or at least nothing in particular. They seek to "satisfice" their needs rather than obtaining an optimal diet or habitat. Even diurnal animals, which have a limited amount of daylight in which to accomplish their tasks, follow this pattern. Social activity comes in a distant third to eating and resting for foraging animals. When more time must be spent foraging, animals are more likely to sacrifice time spent on aggressive behavior than time spent resting. Extremely efficient predators have more free time and thus often appear more lazy than relatively inept predators that have little free time.[7] Beetles likewise seem to forage lazily due to a lack of foraging competitors.[8] On the other hand, some animals, such as pigeons and rats, seem to prefer to respond for food rather than eat equally available "free food" in some conditions.[9]

Particular societies

From 1909 to 1914, the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease sought to eradicate hookworm infestation from 11 southern U.S. states. Hookworms were popularly known as "the germ of laziness" because they produced listlessness and weakness in the people they infested. Hookworms infested 40 percent of southerners and were identified in the North as the cause of the South's alleged backwardness.[10]

It was alleged that indolence was the reason for backward conditions in Indonesia, such as the failure to implement Green Revolution agricultural methods. But a counter-argument is that the Indonesians, living very precariously, sought to play it safe by not risking a failed crop, given that not all experiments introduced by outsiders have been successful.[11]

Related literature

See also


  1. ^ Leonard Carmichael (Apr., 1954), Laziness and the Scholarly Life, 78, The Scientific Monthly, pp. 208–213, JSTOR 21392 
  2. ^ Harry Howard Gilbert (Jan., 1931), High-School Students' Opinions on Reasons for Failure in High-School Subjects, 23, The Journal of Educational Research, pp. 46–49, JSTOR 27525294 
  3. ^ Defoe, Daniel (2003). The Political History of the Devil. New York: AMS Press. p. 338. ISBN 040463544X. 
  4. ^ wikisource: That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen
  5. ^ Cranmer, Hal (April 5, 2002), In Defense of Laziness, Ludwig von Mises Instute, 
  6. ^ von MIses, Ludwig, Human Action, 
  7. ^ Joan M. Herbers (1981), Time Resources and Laziness in Animals, 49, Oecologia, pp. 252–262, JSTOR 4216378 
  8. ^ Bernd Heinrich and Elizabeth Mcclain (Mar. - Apr., 1986), "Laziness" and Hypothermia as a Foraging Strategy in Flower Scarabs (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae), 59, Physiological Zoology, pp. 273–282, JSTOR 30156041 
  9. ^ Elkan R. Gamzu, David R. Williams, Barry Schwartz, Robert L. Welker, Gary Hansen, Larry A. Engberg and David R. Thomas (Jul. 27, 1973), Pitfalls of Organismic Concepts: "Learned Laziness"?, 181, Science, New Series, pp. 367–369, JSTOR 1736630 
  10. ^ Ronald L. Numbers (Jan. 15, 1982), Review: The War against Hookworm, 215, Science, New Series, pp. 280–281, JSTOR 1688243 
  11. ^ Karen A. Laidlaw and Ronald E. Seavoy (Mar., 1979), The "Ethic of Indolence": Another View, 10, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 190–193, JSTOR 20070277 

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  • Laziness — La zi*ness, n. The state or quality of being lazy. [1913 Webster] Laziness travels so slowly, that Poverty soon overtakes him. Franklin. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • laziness — index inertia, laches, languor, laxity, sloth Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • laziness — (n.) 1570s, from LAZY (Cf. lazy) + NESS (Cf. ness) …   Etymology dictionary

  • laziness — [n] unwillingness to work, be active apathy, dilatoriness, do nothingness, dormancy, dreaminess, drowsiness, dullness, faineance, faineancy, heaviness, idleness, inactivity, indolence, inertia, inertness, lackadaisicalness, languidness,… …   New thesaurus

  • laziness — tingis statusas T sritis švietimas apibrėžtis Mokymosi ar darbo vengimo būsena, atsirandanti dėl motyvacijos susilpnėjimo. Ją sukelia asmenybės vystymosi (mokymosi ar darbo) sunkumai, nesutarimai su mokytojais, tėvais, draugais. Tingio priežastys …   Enciklopedinis edukologijos žodynas

  • laziness — lazy ► ADJECTIVE (lazier, laziest) 1) unwilling to work or use energy. 2) showing or characterized by a lack of effort or care. DERIVATIVES lazily adverb laziness noun. ORIGIN perhaps related to Low German lasich languid, idle …   English terms dictionary

  • laziness — noun 1. apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue (personified as one of the deadly sins) • Syn: ↑sloth, ↑acedia • Derivationally related forms: ↑lazy • Hypernyms: ↑mortal sin, ↑deadly sin …   Useful english dictionary

  • laziness — noun see lazy I …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • laziness — See lazily. * * * …   Universalium

  • laziness — noun The quality of being lazy …   Wiktionary

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