How to stop procrastinating
Recent research has suggested that forgiveness is good for your health. But it may also be good for your study habits. Students who procrastinated in studying for an exam — but forgave themselves for doing so — procrastinated less and got a higher grade on a subsequent exam. One might normally expect such a self-forgiving student to keep on procrastinating. However, self-forgiveness mitigated the guilt and rumination — and desire to procrastinate further to avoid these negative feelings — that resulted from the initial bout of procrastination, making it easier to study for the next exam.
Wohl, M. et al., “I Forgive Myself, Now I Can Study: How Self-Forgiveness for Procrastinating Can Reduce Future Procrastination,” Personality and Individual Differences (forthcoming).
The conventional wisdom about Africa is that it’s stagnant and dysfunctional. Yet, according to a new economic analysis, this may be history. While there was indeed little progress in the 1980s, there seems to have been a lot since the 1990s. Up until then, 40 percent of the population lived on less than one dollar a day; by 2006, that number dropped by 10 percentage points. Likewise, GDP per capita has surged. The growth appears to be widespread, and not confined to a subset of advantaged countries. The authors point out that “these results contradict the 2008 Millennium Development Goals Report” of the United Nations and that, if it weren’t for conflict in Congo, those goals could actually be reached two to three years ahead of schedule. Moreover, this growth does not appear to have exacerbated inequality and, in fact, appears to have reduced it.
Sala-i-Martin, X. & Pinkovskiy, M., “African Poverty is Falling…Much Faster than You Think!” National Bureau of Economic Research (February 2010).
While power may corrupt in the political sense, new research suggests that it also corrupts in the hedonistic sense. In one experiment, people were asked to recall a situation where they either had power or were powerless. Later, they were presented with a plate full of cheese crackers as part of a purported taste test. People who had been primed with power ate as many crackers as their hunger dictated, but people who had been primed with powerlessness only ate what they thought they should, regardless of hunger. In another experiment, people expecting to occupy a position of power consumed food in proportion to its appeal, whereas people expecting to occupy a powerless position only ate what they thought they should, regardless of taste. These results bolster the theory that power causes people to rely more on impulse, feeling, and experience.
Guinote, A., “In Touch With Your Feelings: Power Increases Reliance on Bodily Information,” Social Cognition (February 2010).
Much has been written about the supposedly self-centered attitudes of today’s youth, but is this trend reflected in their work ethic? To find out, researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of high school seniors in 1976, 1991, and 2006. The most recent generation — a.k.a. “Generation Me” — places a greater emphasis on leisure time than Generation X and especially Baby Boomers. Significantly more seniors in 2006, compared to 1976, thought that having more than two weeks of vacation was “very important,” wanted a job where they could work slowly, were less interested in working overtime, were more likely to see their jobs as just a way to make a living, and were less interested in intrinsic rewards and social interaction. The one exception to this trend is that Generation Me is a little less driven by extrinsic rewards than Generation X (though still more so than Baby Boomers). The authors concede that young people may be justified in seeking a better work-life balance, given that many jobs today demand more hours and offer less vacation time.
Twenge, J. et al., “Generational Differences in Work Values: Leisure and Extrinsic Values Increasing, Social and Intrinsic Values Decreasing,” Journal of Management (forthcoming).
A question that has puzzled mankind for ages is whether physically attractive people also tend to have more attractive personalities. A recent study says yes. Researchers first asked men and women to assess their own personalities. Meanwhile, photos of these men and women were shown to other people, who made an independent assessment of physical attractiveness. The researchers found that the men and women who were seen as more physically attractive also identified themselves as more agreeable and sociable. It is easy to imagine that the personalities of physically attractive people evolve over time to become more agreeable and sociable, building on the positive social feedback that comes from being desirable. But the researchers found that agreeable and sociable people groomed themselves better, explaining their attractiveness advantage.
Meier, B. et al., “Are Sociable People More Beautiful? A Zero-Acquaintance Analysis of Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Attractiveness,” Journal of Research in Personality (forthcoming).
Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist.
Full article and photo: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/03/21/how_to_stop_procrastinating/