Nautilus

For Billions of People, “Wasting Time” Makes Little Sense

Monks relaxing in Sikkim, Indiaflowcomm via Flickr

Robert Levine, a social psychologist at California State University, Fresno, will always remember a conversation he had with an exchange student from Burkina Faso, in Western Africa. Levine had complained to the student that he’d wasted the morning “yakking in a café” instead of doing his work.

The student looked confused. “How can you waste time? If you’re not doing one thing, you’re doing something else. Even if you’re just talking to a friend, or sitting around, that’s what you’re

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