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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Effect Of Shame And Guilt On Students Writing Habits


Individuals strive to assuage negative emotions through a myriad of mechanisms, some of which are adaptive while others are not. In the current study, we focus on shame and guilt. Previous research suggests that shame is more associated with defensiveness and the tendency to project negative feelings outward. However, guilt can be an adaptive emotion and is associated with the tendency to take responsibility. The current study explores how such negative emotionality can affect students’ perceived and actual work habits by utilizing Google Docs, which keeps a time-stamped record of workers’ activity that is accurate to the millisecond. Participants (n = 178) were asked to write an essay into Google Docs. Participants also completed self-reported procrastination scales and the Test of Self-Conscious Affect (TOSCA). Therefore, we can compare participants’ self-reported levels of shame and guilt with both their self-reported procrastination and their actual work activity (measured by utilizing the time-stamped data). While both shame-proneness and guilt-proneness are significant predictors of self-reported procrastination, neither predict observed procrastination. Despite this, self-reported procrastination is associated with observed procrastination. Ultimately, this data can be used to better understand students’ perceived and actual work habits and motivations from a psychological perspective and can assist in informing others regarding how to best engage with students concerning their writing activity and habits.

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