Slackers Outperform High Achievers At Tasks If Labeled as "Fun"

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slackersWe have all slacked off at one point in time in our lives. There are numerous causes that lead to slacking, or doing sub-par work, or the bare minimum needed to get by, but now there are research findings, from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that say that slackers outperform hard working, high achievers in certain areas, for specific reasons.

A new study suggests that hard, motivated workers generally excel at certain tasks, WHEN they are reminded of the benefits or optimal outcomes of their hard work. That makes sense. If you dangle the carrot in front of the hare before the race, that hare will probably run faster than if you didn't tell him he was working for his dinner.

In order to have the hard-working, motivated high achievers, you also need to have the underachievers, commonly deemed as slackers in our society. While the term slacker carries the stigma of most four-letter words, this new study finds that in one case, slackers are excelling past their over achieving counterparts and rising to the top.

Feel like you are having a hard time motivating to get this week started? Well, read on and find out where you excel and how you can be more like a slacker, well at least in this one case.


The Study

Lead by University of Illinois psychology professor, Dolores Albarracin, and University of Florida professor, William Hart, this research included 4 different studies all aimed at evaluating how a participants' attitude toward achievement influenced their actual performance on certain tasks, a term referred to as "chronic achievement motivation."

To obtain results that were indicative of a person's attitude towards achievement, and how that in turn influenced or affected performance, the scientists used priming techniques. Priming refers to a technique where the study participants were exposed to subconscious messages about excelling, winning or achieving. An example of a priming technique would be to flash an image of a person winning a race across a t.v screen really quickly before participants were asked to perform certain tasks. The image would be gone before it was ever really noticed, but the effects were lasting, the study found, which indicated that high achievers performed better at tasks than under achievers did when exposed to subconscious priming techniques.


Final Finding

Once this information about the priming techniques came to light, the scientists concluded that people with high achievement motivation, who were exposed to primers or priming techniques, performed worse than the under achievers did when they were told a task was fun. "It's not that those with high achievement motivation always perform better," Albarracín said. "You can also get the low achievement motivation folks to perform better than the highs when you present a task as enjoyable and fun." In short this study tells us that achievement primers inhibit the desire for fun in people who are motivated to be high achievers.

The authors hope that this information will help teachers, educators, bosses and other leaders alike motivate their students and employees in new and different ways.

It is definitely something to think about-perhaps the slacker in the next cubicle is not lazy at all, maybe he just has a more relaxed outlook on life and strives to make things fun. Perhaps the highly motivated over achiever that you are trying to be is all in vain because you are too one track and focused all the time, you might miss out on something.

Whether you are the over achiever or the under achiever in this story, it does remind us that we are all good at something and that no one is good at everything. Me, I personally always like to root for the underdog and I think this a great story of how the underdog has something to teach us.

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