Want to Get Stuff Done? Do Stuff Around Other People

Source: Want to Get Stuff Done? Do Stuff Around Other People. | Big Think

I’m a freelance writer. Often when I tell people about what I do, I hear the Greek chorus: “What a luxury! How nice it must be to work from home.” Except I can’t. Or rather, I could, but I would be fending off a very needy cat and the desire to eat last night’s takeout at 11 AM.

At present, I am writing this article at a cafe surrounded by the furious typing of other cafe patrons who I assume have similar petty distractions awaiting them in the dysfunctional solitude of their apartments. And, according to a recent study by Belgian psychologist Kobe Desender, there’s a reason for my sneaking suspicion: Mental effort is contagious. So contagious that, when Desender and his team tested the human hive mind with a simple computer game that required varying levels of partner participation and difficulty, participants naturally gravitated toward matching the perceived effort of their harder-working partners — not the difficulty level of the task.

‘Swarm theory’ has fascinated scientists for decades: Mainly, why do humans work harder, better, faster when we are tapped into the energy of a group?

Desender and his team determined that partners were not “mimicking” each other, but the reasons why aren’t clear. “Swarm theory” has fascinated scientists for decades: Mainly, why do humans work harder, better, faster when we are tapped into the energy of a group? In fact, brain scans of control groups of children show more activity in regions that recognize facial expressions, faces, and social signals versus groups of autistic children who have trouble interpreting basic human social cues. Even monkeys who are popular have bigger brains.

So is understanding group behavior really the way to understanding how to improve human efficiency and motivation? Working together could be hardwired in our DNA. We are descended from fish, after all.

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One thought on “Want to Get Stuff Done? Do Stuff Around Other People

  1. Yep! This is my number one reason for studying at libraries. I have all the books on my computer or otherwise, but simply being around others that can see me (even though they probably could care less about what I’m doing haha) keeps me from doing less than productive things while there. I feel like we’re all there working hard, instead of lonely working by myself when I could just as easily be watching a show or something else.

    Liked by 1 person

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