Friday, March 23, 2012

Weekend Reading: The Feeling Vindicated Edition

I'm only human... it makes me happy when I come across something that I feel vindicates something I've said, something that supports an argument I've made. Today I have some links that make me feel vindicated:

First, an article largely about Sarah Hrdy, and what she has written about how humans evolved as a cooperatively breeding species, in which mothers relied on a network of support from other people (their babies' fathers and others) to raise their children makes it obvious that the argument that I and others have made that mothers have always worked is actually not going far enough: our maternal instincts evolved in an environment in which mothers had to do non-mothering work. I'm sure I'll have more to say about Hrdy's arguments once I finish Mother Nature.

Next, an article about why we should bring back the 40 hour work week made the rounds of the internet. It references another white paper on the same subject, which focuses more on the software industry and has references to research that established the standard week of 5 eight hour days as fairly optimal for productivity. I confess that I had never gone looking for actual research to support the conclusions I have drawn based on my own experience both as a worker and a manager, which I summarized in my work limit post. (I know! And I call myself a scientist.) Most of the research cited in the paper was done on industrial work, but the evidence seems to imply that people maintain productivity at "mental work" for even fewer hours than they can maintain productivity at physical labor.

If you're only going to read one of those two links, I recommend reading the white paper (the second link)- the first one has some logical flaws- she undermines her argument that a shorter work week will make people able to produce more work (and not less) by turning around and trying to argue that we'd create jobs if we all dropped back to a 40 hour work week. Still, if you are willing to overlook this problem, it is a fairly good article.

Regardless, I'm glad I came across that paper (which made its way to me from multiple sources), since it led me to the productivity research papers. You'll undoubtedly hear more from me on this subject, too, once I've had a chance to read and digest the research.

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. Thanks for the links, especially the one to your work limit post. I work pretty fast and efficient and I don't think I ever in my life worked later than 7PM. Most of my time studying in college happened before 4PM, because I knew that after that my productivity dropped tremendously. I just never tell this to people because you're 'supposed' to work long.

  2. Thanks; I enjoyed the Hrdy piece. I've read the book but lacked the background on her personal life (though there are some other aspects of it I know that she's described in her own writing).


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