IGNORANCE IS BLISS: UNPLEASANT TASKS SEEM WORSE IF THEY ARE EXPECTED TO HAPPEN AGAIN

Open Access
Author:
Spencer, Lauren A.
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 17, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Karen Gasper, Thesis Advisor
  • Alicia Ann Grandey, Committee Member
  • Stephanie A Shields, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • affect
  • emotion
  • emotion regulation
  • motivation
Abstract:
Everyone has to do things they don’t enjoy, and often these unpleasant tasks happen more than once. This project examined how expecting to repeat an unpleasant task might change one’s initial affective experience of completing the task. First, it may be better to know that one will have to repeat the task, for this way one can work on improving their affect. Thus, people who expect the second task might experience the first task as better than those who do not know about the second task. Second, it may actually be worse to know that one will have to repeat the task, because this knowledge might result in people dreading the second task while they are working on the first task. In two experiments, compared to people who did not know that they would have to repeat the task, people who expected to do the task twice felt more negative affect (but not more positive affect) during the initial task. This effect remained even when the participants were in a condition designed to increase their intrinsic motivation to perform well on the task. A third study examined people’s desire to know about the fact that the task would be repeated and if they thought that this knowledge would help or hinder their affect during initial task. It revealed that respondents expressed a desire to know ahead of time that they would have to repeat the task and that they did not realize that knowing about the second task would result in more negative affect. Thus, if the goal is to improve initial task affect, in contrast to people’s assumptions, ignorance is bliss.