“Out of sight, out of mind.”
Even if this cliché isn’t true in every respect (at least, not when you’re pining away for someone), we humans sometimes assume it is when we’re working in groups. Various psychological studies suggest that social loafing, the tendency of people working in groups to work a little less harder because they’re less directly responsible, is a very real thing. A 1993 meta-analysis covering seventy-eight studies and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that certain factors, like not caring about the task itself or having higher expectations of others’ performances, increase the “out of sight, out of mind” assumption.
But the cliché is true beyond group work situations as well. A 2010 study in the journal Tobacco Control found that after tobacco ads were removed from a certain location, only 22 percent of teenagers could remember the ads’ content (compared with a whopping 81 percent beforehand). The removal also lowered these teens’ beliefs about how many of their peers smoked. When the ads weren’t confronting them every day, they thought about them—and the prospect of smoking—much less. (If only that were true of that whole pining-away business.)
Relying on clichés is often thought of as lazy, but when it comes down to it, sometimes they say it better than any paraphrasing or unique spin ever could. Within those words that have been repeated infinitely are pearls of wisdom we’d all do well to remember as we go about our daily lives—even if, as is the case with these phrases, we have to fudge their original meaning a little to get to the golden truth.
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