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Michael wants to apply for a research assistant position. He has two weeks to get two letters of reference and to fill out the application form. He needlessly puts it off until the last minute and no professor is able to write him a letter in time for the deadline. The department says that they will not accept his application without letters of reference; therefore he does not get the position.

The first measure after each scenario consisted of a manipulation check concerning the extent to which the agent was perceived as engaging in procrastination.


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The second and third measures evaluated to what extent participants perceived the agent to be morally responsible for the outcome described as well as blameworthy for the outcome. At the end of the study, participants were presented with debriefing information concerning the purpose of the study and dismissed.

Concerning the ANCOVA assumptions, students were randomly assigned to experimental conditions, satisfying the assumption of independence of observations. Next, there was a loss of 29 participants due to missing responses on the study measures.

Homogeneity of regression slopes as interaction terms were not significant for age or gender. All participants read multiple vignettes, one after the other, in the same order, each reflecting the same combination of three experimental factors. Accordingly, analyses of change over time were not conducted due to possible order effects.

In addition, the extent to which the experimental variable of primary interest procrastination versus delay was uniquely perceived by participants as reflecting procrastination behavior, was further evaluated using an independent samples t -test. ANCOVA analyses were conducted to evaluate the effects of the experimental conditions as independent variables of Behavior procrastination versus delay , Outcome negative versus positive , and Target self versus other on moral responsibility and blameworthiness as dependent measures.

Age and gender were included as covariates based on prior research showing older individuals to procrastinate less often e. Although the results showed no significant differences with respect to the background variables, age and gender were nonetheless included as covariates in the study analyses to maintain consistency with published research and provide a suitably conservative test of the study hypotheses with respect to previously demonstrated potential confounds. In contrast, delays were evaluated as involving lower levels of moral responsibility when resulting in negative versus positive outcomes, especially when the delay was experienced by others versus oneself.

To further probe the significant interaction between Target, Behavior, and Outcome, we examined the simple effects of Behavior and Outcome by Target level self versus other. In this study, we investigated how students perceive procrastination, as opposed to experienced delays, through the theoretical lenses of social psychology, experimental philosophy, and educational psychology. First, significant main effects showed participants to clearly distinguish between procrastination and delay experiences.

In support of Hypothesis 1, students evaluated procrastination as more blameworthy and morally responsible as compared to delays. Second, in accordance with Hypothesis 4, two-way interaction effects revealed that the degree of responsibility attributed to oneself or others depended on whether the outcome of procrastination or delay was positive or negative. Whereas students who engaged in procrastination were generally perceived as higher in moral responsibility when the outcome was negative, delays were instead viewed as less deserving of moral responsibility when they resulted in failure.

Social emotions

Conversely, positive consequences of procrastination were viewed as involving less moral responsibility, with success following delay experiences viewed as higher in moral responsibility e. This finding is consistent with Knobe who suggests that negative outcomes with moral implications tend to be immediately perceived as more intentional in nature. Moreover, this result is in line with attribution theory in showing failure despite effort to imply a lack of ability resulting in lower perceived responsibility and greater sympathy e.

Additionally, an unanticipated three-way interaction was observed showing this pattern of results to be further moderated by whether participants were judging themselves or others.

Social Motivation, Justice, and the Moral Emotions: An Attributional Approach

Whereas students generally viewed procrastination as deserving of moral responsibility following failure, procrastination that specifically resulted in failure was viewed as involving more moral responsibility when it happened to others as opposed to oneself. More specifically, although students tended to view themselves as morally responsible for procrastination despite the outcome, they rated other students less responsible than themselves when procrastination did not impair performance and more harshly than themselves when procrastination had negative consequences.

This finding is novel in research on procrastination in showing outcome and target to moderate perceptions of intentionality and expands on social-psychological theories of perception biases in showing individuals to perceive others as more culpable due to dispositional factors following failure, specifically failure due to procrastination. The results from the present study also help explain why research has consistently shown procrastination to negatively correlate with academic performance Kim and Seo, This interpretation is consistent with research suggesting that self-forgiveness for misbehavior requires one to first take responsibility for the transgression Wohl et al.

Finally, information concerning the moral implications of procrastination is vital for developing intervention programs to assist students, specifically concerning efforts to promote adaptive student cognitions e. Moreover, the present findings contribute to research on procrastination in highlighting the social implications of this detrimental behavior in educational settings.

Although previous research has convincingly demonstrated the negative personal consequences of procrastination with respect to academics Schraw et al. Given that perceptions of blameworthiness and responsibility are clearly linked to tasks that involve social obligation Eshleman, , it is perhaps not surprising that procrastination was linked to intentionality-related beliefs involving others as evaluated using both a cognitive measure responsibility and more affective measure blame; see Weiner, Multiple limitations are to be considered when interpreting the results of the present study.

First, whereas the present study followed from recent research on the utility of single-item self-report measures in motivation and blameworthiness research Inbar et al. Furthermore, the present study did not take into account the potential influence of other variables such as demographics ethnicity or socio-economic status , psychosocial variables personality traits , or contextual factors years in program, domain.

Third, it is important to note that the main effect for Outcome experimental condition positive versus negative on blameworthiness, as well as for the 3-way interaction results, were small in magnitude effect size, Cohen, ; for a critique, see Cortina and Landis, Fourth, although age and gender were controlled for in the analysis, the demographic composition of the sample e.

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Nevertheless, these preliminary empirical findings are encouraging in suggesting that moral perceptions of procrastination and its outcomes do differ in educational settings depending on whether or not it is occurring to oneself vs. SR conducted data collection, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing. NH and TP contributed to manuscript writing. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Aug 5. Hall , 1 and Timothy A. Pychyl 2. Nathan C. Timothy A. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.


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This article was submitted to Educational Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received May 11; Accepted Jul The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

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Human Emotion 10.3: Emotions in a Social World III (Emotions and Relationships)

Two basic goals of punishment—retribution and utility—and the means to those goals, including isolation, rehabilitation, and the creation of fear, were first examined. The objectives of punishment were then related to attributions The objectives of punishment were then related to attributions regarding the cause of a transgression. It was documented that punishment goals are mediated by the expectancies and affects that are elicited by causal beliefs. It also was argued that the purposes of punishment are more state-like than trait-like, for they change as a function of the reason for a transgression.

Data from three laboratory experiments, as well as a field study regarding reactions to O. Simpson for his alleged crimes, were presented in support of the above beliefs. In addition, the morality of retribution versus utilitarianism was discussed in the context of the caning of Michael Fay in Singapore. It is suggested that rehabilitation may be the most moral of the punishment means. Explanations: Processes and Consequences more.

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More Info: In H. Kruglanski Eds. The Judgment of Responsibility more. Attribution in personality psychology more. More Info: In L. John Eds. Inferences of Responsibility and Social Motivation more. More Info: In M. Zanna Ed. Publisher: New York: Academic Press.