Most of us know somebody who is neurotic — maybe not Woody Allen neurotic, but unable to make decisions, prone to quick mood swings and anxiety.

Neurotic people tend to stay on life's sidelines a bit and are often less engaged in activities. A new University of Pennsylvania study offers a clue on why that might be. Researchers questioned close to 4,000 college students about their attitudes toward action and inaction — and found that neurotic individuals disliked action.

"Neurotic individuals endorse inaction more than non-neurotic individuals, so it's not that they can not be more effective, or engage in action — they also dislike it more," explained Penn communications professor Dolores Albarracin.

She says that this inclination could feed into the person's neuroticism. "The attitudes would sustain the neurotic trait, simply because you don't like to act, you remain passive in a lot of situations, and if you were to be active, the outcomes would be better," she said.

Albarracin says the findings could mean new ways of helping neurotic people by first addressing their attitudes toward taking action.