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The Conception of Laziness and the Characterisation of Others as Lazy

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Abstract

This paper is a theoretical investigation of the common conception of laziness. It starts from constructing a tentative definition of laziness, defining laziness as a negative term referring to people who do not show an effort corresponding to their abilities and/or prerequisites, and/or the difficulty of the task in question. Jerome Bruner’s folk psychology is applied to emphasise how the conception of laziness serves as a narrative re-establishing meaning when people do not act as they are expected. Furthermore, two perspectives concerning the characterisation of others as lazy are presented. First, Tversky’s and Kahneman’s Heuristics and Biases Approach, and second Moscovici’s Social Representations Theory. Common for the ways in which the concept of laziness is understood and applied is that the actual motivation, abilities and qualifications of the person being evaluated are hardly never assessed. Thus, the concept of laziness can easily function as a reductionist explanation why others are not acting as expected, with the purpose of making the act of not acting as expected more comprehensible.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Lazy Robert (in Danish “Dovne Robert”) is a Danish media personality, who became nationally known after appearing in a television debate in 2012. He caused a great public clamour by claiming, that he would much rather be on unemployment benefits than working a low paid job, firing the ongoing political debated whether it is really worth one’s while taking a low paid job in Denmark, when you cannot-work and get paid from the state. Lazy Robert was frequently figuring in debates regarding tax and unemployment benefits, personifying the political arguments why unemployment benefits should be lowered by representing the typical lazy work-shy unemployed worker.

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Acknowledgements

A great thanks to Luca Tateo for encouraging me to write this article and to the reviewers on Human Arenas for their insightful comments.

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Correspondence to Thomas Madsen.

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Madsen, T. The Conception of Laziness and the Characterisation of Others as Lazy. Hu Arenas 1, 288–304 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42087-018-0018-6

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