Naïve Definitions of Action and Inaction: The Continuum, Spread, and Valence of Behaviors

Kathleen C. Mcculloch, Hong Li, Sungjin Hong, Dolores Albarracin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cohesiveness of a society depends, in part, on how its individual members manage their daily activities with respect to the goals of that society. Hence, there should be a degree of social agreement on what constitutes action and what constitutes inaction. The present research investigated the structure of action and inaction definitions, the evaluation of action versus inaction, and individual differences in these evaluations. Action-inaction ratings of behaviors and states showed more social agreement at the ends of the inaction-action continuum than at the middle, suggesting a socially shared construal of this definition. Action-inaction ratings were also shown to correlate with the valence of the rated behaviors, such that the more active the behavior, the more positive its valence. Lastly, individual differences in locomotion, need for closure, and Christian religious beliefs correlated positively with a preference for action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Action control
  • Agency
  • Inaction
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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