Tag Archives: Leisure

Carrot.

Farmers actually work more than hunter-gatherers, have less leisure time

New research says that agriculture may not have been the smartest move we ever pulled. The authors of the study report that hunter-gatherers in the Philippines who are transitioning towards agriculture work for significantly longer each day. Women seem to be the hardest hit by this transition.

Carrot.

Image via Pixabay.

A team of researchers led by University of Cambridge anthropologist Dr. Mark Dyble lived with the Agta people, a group of small-scale hunter-gatherers from the northern Philippines who are increasingly engaging in agriculture. The team says that engagement in farming and other non-foraging work resulted in the Agta working harder and for more time every day — in essence, it ate into their leisure time. On average, the Agta that primarily engaged in agriculture worked 10 more hours per week compared to foraging-focused ones. The women living in agricultural communities were especially hard-hit: on average, they only had half as much leisure time as their hunter-gatherer counterparts.

Toils of the earth

“For a long time, the transition from foraging to farming was assumed to represent progress, allowing people to escape an arduous and precarious way of life,” says Dr Dyble, first author of the study.

“But as soon as anthropologists started working with hunter-gatherers they began questioning this narrative, finding that foragers actually enjoy quite a lot of leisure time. Our data provides some of the clearest support for this idea yet.”

The researchers recorded what the Agta were up to at regular intervals between 6 am and 6 pm for every day they were there, across ten Agta communities. Using this data, the team then calculated how 359 Agta managed their time: in particular, they were curious to see how much time they assigned to leisure, childcare, domestic chores, and out-of-camp work per day. Some of the Agta people in the study engaged in hunting and gathering exclusively, while others mixed foraging with rice farming.

Increased engagement in farming and other non-foraging activities was linked to larger workloads and less leisure time, the team reports. On average, the Agta that engaged primarily in farming worked roughly 30 hours per week, while forager-onlys worked around 20 hours, the team estimates. The difference was largely due to women, they add, who had to forgo domestic activities and work in the fields. Women living in the communities most involved in farming had half as much leisure time as those in communities which only foraged.

Both men and women had the lowest amount of leisure time at around 30 years of age, although it kept increasing steadily later on. Overall, women spent less time working outside of the camp, and more on domestic chores and childcare (in-camp activities) than men. All in all, however, both sexes enjoyed a roughly equal amount of leisure time. Adoption of farming had a disproportionate impact on women’s lives, however, as we’ve mentioned above.

“This might be because agricultural work is more easily shared between the sexes than hunting or fishing,” Dr Dyble says. “Or there may be other reasons why men aren’t prepared or able to spend more time working out-of-camp. This needs further examination.”

“The amount of leisure time that Agta enjoy is testament to the effectiveness of the hunter-gatherer way of life. This leisure time also helps to explain how these communities manage to share so many skills and so much knowledge within lifetimes and across generations,” says Dr Abigail Page, an anthropologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the paper’s co-authors.

However, “we have to be really cautious when extrapolating from contemporary hunter-gatherers to different societies in pre-history,” she adds. “But, if the first farmers really did work harder than foragers then this begs an important question — why did humans adopt agriculture?”

The paper “Engagement in agricultural work is associated with reduced leisure time among Agta hunter-gatherers” has been published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

Calendar.

You’re doing fun activities wrong — but a new study reveals how to do them right

Scheduled fun isn’t as enjoyable as spontaneous fun, apparently.

Calendar.

Image credits Andreas Lischka.

Your trying to have a good time might just be what’s keeping you from it, a new paper suggests. According to the research, performed by a duo of scientists from the Ohio State University (OSU) and Rutgers Business School (RBS), planning leisure activities ahead of time makes us enjoy them less compared to spontaneous or more loosely-scheduled events.

It’s all about the timing

The paper explains that we tend to subconsciously ‘lump together’ all of our scheduled activity under the same mental group. It doesn’t matter if said activity is going to the dentist, paying your taxes, or a date with a special someone — if it’s scheduled, it goes in the same group. In the end, that makes us more likely to perceive pleasurable activities as chores, the authors explain, draining them of some enjoyment.

“It becomes a part of our to-do list,” Selin A. Malkoc, study co-author and an associate professor at OSU, wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “As an outcome, they become less enjoyable.”

“When scheduled, leisure tasks feel less free-flowing and more forced — which is what robs them of their utility.”

Part of the problem, Malkoc believes, is cultural. We place such a high value on achievement that even fun and contentment become secondary. Most of us live hectic lives, juggling work, school, social events, hobbies, sports, and many other activities that require an investment of time and energy. We jam-pack our schedules, fearing that we will never do all that we want to do if we give ourselves some free time, Malkoc explains. Because of this over-commitment to achievement, “people even strive to make leisure productive and brag about being busy,” the paper explains.

In the end, we do more — but we enjoy all of it less.

The paper builds on a 2016 study published by the two researchers, in which they pooled together data from 13 previous studies conducted on the enjoyment of leisure activities. After analyzing all the results in parallel, the team concluded that scheduling leisure activities — ranging from a carwash, test-driving a car, and watching a fun video — had a “unique dampening effect” on their enjoyment.

In one of the 13 studies, the authors gave students a hypothetical calendar consisting of classes and other activities. Some of the students were asked to schedule a frozen yogurt outing with friends, two days in advance, and add it to the calendar. The rest were asked to imagine they ran into a friend by chance and ended up going to the same frozen yogurt place — but spontaneously. Both groups were later asked to report how they felt about the situation.

The first group — the schedulers — ended up perceiving the event “more like work,” the paper concludes.

So, then, what can we do to enjoy some downtime but still get something done? Malkoc believes “rough scheduling” could be the answer. Boiled down, this approach means setting up plans to meet for lunch or an after-work drink with someone, but not assigning it a time per se. If this loose plan isn’t enough to make the meetup happen, she adds, that may be for the best.

“As trivial as the change might seem, it has an important effect on human psychology: It reintroduces the flexibility to the leisure tasks,” Malkoc wrote in her email to The Washington Post.

“If things don’t work out, in all likelihood at least one of the parties was forcing themselves to make it happen – and thus would enjoy it less. So, maybe things worked out for the best, right?”

Malkoc uses the approach in her own personal life, saying it goes just fine and that her friends “are willing to play along”. Rough scheduling was also the subject of one of the previous studies she and Tonietto performed.

It included 148 college students who agreed to take a break for free coffee and cookies during finals. Half of these students were asked to come in at a specific time for their snack, while the others were given a two-hour window during which they could do so. The first group reported enjoying their break less than those who were given a window, according to the study.

Another piece of advice Malkoc would give is to simply stop trying to fit so many different activities in our schedule. A good place to start from would be to prioritize our enjoyment of activities rather than their quantity, she suggests.

“Be more selective in what we choose to do … take the liberty to let things go,” she concluded in her emails. “This is not to say we should never make plans. But we can prioritize better and let go of our fear of missing out.”

The paper “The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In” has been published in the Journal of Market Research.