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Mon Oct 24 00:16:01 SAST 2016

Explained: Why we do unpleasant activities‚ like chores

Deneesha Pillay | 18 August, 2016 12:43

Why is it that human beings are routinely inclined to engage in “unpleasant” activities?

According to a recent study‚ a team of researchers at the Boston Children's Hospital in the US developed a smartphone application to monitor‚ in real-time‚ the activities and moods of over 28,000 people.

The participants were presented with questionnaires via the app at random times throughout the day and were asked to rate their current mood on a scale of 0 (very unhappy) to 100 (very happy) and to report what they were doing from a standard list of choices.

The study‚ led by Dr Maxime Taquet‚ a research fellow at the hospital‚ found that people were more likely to engage in “mood-increasing activities”‚ such as playing a sport or going to the gym‚ when they felt bad; while they engaged in necessary but “mood-decreasing activities”‚ such as household chores and maintenance when they felt good.

“Decisions we make every day about how to invest our time have crucial personal and societal consequences.

“Most theories of motivation propose that our daily choices of activities aim to maximise positive affective states but fail to explain when people decide to engage in unpleasant yet necessary activities‚” the study reads.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that Taquet said: “Using large-scale data‚ we showed how our emotions shape our behaviour and explain the trade-offs us humans make in our daily lives to secure our long-term happiness.”

Taquet added that deciding what to do with one's time is one of the most fundamental choices humans face every day - a choice that has crucial consequences both for individuals and society at large.

“Our findings demonstrate that people's everyday decisions regarding which activities to undertake are directly linked to how they feel and follow a remarkably consistent pattern.

“People seek mood-enhancing activities when they feel bad and engage in unpleasant activities that might promise longer-term payoff when they feel good‚" he said.

TMG Digital


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