In an opinion column for the The New York Times, Peter Coy highlighted a study on ‘The Moralization of Effort’ by UC Irvine researchers Jared Celniker, Andrew Gregory, Hyunjin Koo, Paul Piff, and Peter Ditto and University of British Columbia researcher Azim Shariff,. 

In a time when labor force participation rates are declining, the column explored why humans sometimes choose to work even when it is not necessary and asks the question, ‘why is work valuable on its own?’ In ‘The Moralization of Effort,’ Celinker et al. demonstrate that work is essentially proof to others that we are reliable, prosocial, and trustworthy partners. The research examines views on work in three countries: the United States, South Korea, and France. In experimental studies, they found that participants in all three countries viewed fictitious characters who worked harder as warmer and more moral, regardless of whether their job could be done in an easier way.

Coy interviewed Celniker, who noted that the moralization of effort “drives a lot of weird cultural things,” like bosses forcing employees back to the office so they can see them working even if they are more productive at home. The study shows that work holds meaning to us as a species that goes beyond its economic value. 

If you want to read Coy’s full column on the topic, click here.