The Impact of Social Signals on Procrastination and Effort

Abstract

Procrastination is a widespread problem among students and workers from all walks of life. One useful technique for combating procrastination is increasing the accountability of an individual; i.e., by making an individual’s progress or lack thereof visible to others through social signals. In this paper, we solicit perspectives regarding which social signals could feasibly motivate students to increase their effort on a written assignment. Using this feedback, we design and prototype a web interface for a text editor that incorporates novel social signals of peer progress. Finally, we conduct two experiments evaluating how and to what extent these social signals actually influence effort and procrastination. Though we did not find any significant quantitative effects, our results suggest that different social signals may elicit a range of emotional responses from different people, including curiosity, nervousness, encouragement, and competitive spirit; furthermore, the strength of these effects is influenced by the intrinsic appeal of the assignment. These findings invite further exploration on the interaction effects between social signals, task appeal, procrastination, and effort.  

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