Naïve Definitions of Action and Inaction: A Study of Free Associations Using Natural Language Processing and Top-Down Coding

Aashna Sunderrajan, Dolores Albarracín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Even though the terms "action" and "inaction" have been used to describe objects of attitudes, behaviors, and goals, the meaning of action and inaction for lay people has not been investigated.

METHOD: In Study 1, participants were asked to spontaneously generate words and behaviors associated with action or inaction. In Studies 2 and 3, participants were presented with behaviors and asked to report whether each behavior involved agency, effort, and change.

RESULTS: Natural language processing of the responses from Study 1 revealed lay conceptualizations included topics related to occurrence, agency, effort, and change. In Studies 2 and 3, simple regressions showed agency, effort, and change correlated with judgments of action and inaction. However, once these predictors were simultaneously entered into a multiple regression, effort captured most of the variance.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that, even though agency and change are important to the definition of action and inaction, effort is paramount.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalPsicothema
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Action
  • Inaction
  • Language processing
  • Naïve definitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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