MAR 03, 2024 5:29 PM PST

Negative Attitude Linked to More Procrastination

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

 erdA tendency to prioritize negative attitudes is linked to procrastination or delaying tasks. The corresponding study was published in Personality and Individual Differences

'Valence weight bias' is a psychological term that denotes a person's tendency to adapt to new circumstances by drawing more strongly from either positive or negative attitudes. An example of this is in the context of procrastination arises when considering what completing a task 'now' will entail before starting it i.e., will it feel 'hard' (negative), or will it feel 'good to have completed something correctly' (positive)? 

To understand more about how valence weighting bias affects procrastination, the researchers behind the present study conducted a series of three experiments. For the first, they recruited a sample of 232 participants and asked them whether they routinely filed tax returns early or late during tax season. They also assessed whether participants experienced more positive or negative signals when encountering something new. Ultimately, they found a link between negative weighting bias and a delay in tax return submission. 

Next, the researchers recruited 147 college students who were in a program that allowed them to gain course credit in exchange for participating in research. The researchers assessed the student's weighting bias and self-control in relation to their involvement in research. Negative weighting bias and self-reported low motivation or emotional energy for self-control were linked to students getting started in the research program participation later in the semester. 

"The first study established the basic effect of negative weighting bias, but study two provides some nuance," said study author Granados Samayoa, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release

"For people who don't think about it too much or can't think about it too much, their valence weighting tendencies guide their behavior in a straightforward manner. But if somebody is more motivated and able to think more about it, that might bring other considerations that dampen the influence of the valence weighting bias," he added. 

In the third study, the researchers recruited self-reported student procrastinators who scored highly for negative weighting bias and were part of the research-for-credit program. They split the students into two groups: one undertook a manipulated valence weighting bias tool that led participants to weigh positive and negative signals in a more balanced way, while the other group completed the standard version of the tool. 

Ultimately, they found that students who filled in the 'neutralizing' valence weighting bias tool accumulated credit hours more quickly than the control group. 

The researchers also found evidence that negative weight bias may have a positive effect on behavior. They noted, for example, that it may help people have more realistic expectations about whether they are prepared enough for a test. In this scenario, positive weighting bias may lead people to convince themselves that they're ready when they're not. 

"It's better to be more objectively balanced than to be at either extreme. But the situation where a particular valence weighting bias is likely to be problematic is going to vary," said senior study author, Dr. Russell Fazio, Professor of Psychology at The Ohio State University, in a press release


Sources: Neuroscience NewsPersonality and Individual Differences

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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