Well, but absent-minded people often use the shorthand of ‘laziness’ when what they (we) mean is “I have invested an insufficient amount of mental energy to that task to accomplish it.” And that’s not really the same thing. Allocating few mental resources to physical details in the world around us is what makes people absent-minded in the first place.
I don’t have four drinking glasses on my desk right now because I’m too lazy to put them away. I have four drinking glasses on my desk because I do not consider “whether I have a glass already or not” a piece of information worth retaining from one moment to the next. That’s also how the glasses ended up there in the first place; every time I go get a drink, I forget if I already have a glass.
And if someone were to ask me why I don’t put the glasses away right now, while I’m thinking about them, I might say that it’s because I’m too lazy to bother. But if you think about it, in order to do put the glasses away, the fact “I have four glasses on my desk” needs to not just occur to me, but must become the center of my attention for about thirty uninterrupted seconds. That might sound like a trivial reallocation of resources to you, but I suspect my brain is just not set up to do that easily for that type of information.
I mean, there are people who can’t focus on a math problem for long enough to make sense of it. They’re not stupid, they may conceptually understand that math is simply a numerical and symbolic expression of logic, they may have exceptional focus in other areas of their life, but reallocating sufficient mental resources to a math problem to see it through is unusually difficult for them.
Other people have a hard time keeping the plot of an abstract concept long enough to understand it. This is something that has surprised me since I started writing for SciShow, and it’s where I personally find it easiest to spend my mental currency. What I have noticed with SciShow is that I can explain something in a straightforward “A leads to B leads to C leads to D” format, and people express confusion in the YouTube comments, because at some point during the explanation they dropped A, or B, or C. And I say I was surprised, but when I thought about it, there was nothing surprising about it; if I can forget why I’m going to the kitchen in the length of time it takes me to get to the kitchen (not long), why wouldn’t somebody else forget the thing that was said at 1:15 by the time we get to 1:50?
You probably didn’t want to discuss this is nearly this much depth, but I’m sick and I can’t sleep, so this is what happens.
Oh, sure, sure, I understand that. I do it myself in other aspects of my life, and I think it’s probably safe to say that the vast majority of us do it to some degree in at least some areas. We can’t pay attention to everything as thoroughly as it can be paid attention; our minds just aren’t structured that way. As regards my roommate in particular, I happen to know exactly the kinds of things he does and doesn’t pay attention to, and usually why, just from sheer experience and discussion.
I suppose my surprise is mostly due to this: He doesn’t usually say it was laziness. Usually he says he just forgot. Which doesn’t exclude it from the realm of possibility that he said laziness as a shorthand for lack of mental investment, of course, but I just didn’t expect him to say it that way, so I didn’t interpret it clearly. Also, he doesn’t usually set up counter-measures at all, or if he does it’s because I’ve prompted him to do so (for things that actually matter, like bills and rent). I think my surprise emerged more because it seemed like a new situation rather than the familiar sequence, so I was caught off-guard when it followed that sequence anyway.
Also, regarding not wanting to discuss this in so much depth, I did ask Tumblr at large to help me understand why this happened. Even if I was being a tad facetious, I can’t really fault anyone for taking me up on it. (I hope you feel better soon and get some sleep, by the way. For all the good that hope can do you, at least.)