A new study published in Personality and Individual Differences suggests that people who tend to make last-minute cancellations score higher in the Dark personality traits of Machiavellianism and narcissism. They also show increased impulsivity and procrastination.
While the decision to cancel plans at the last minute is sometimes necessary, certain people seem to exhibit this behavior more often than others. These individuals seem prone to backing out on plans on short notice in favor of what they consider better opportunities. Some scholars have suggested that this type of behavior is on the rise and have even given it its own name — social zapping.
Researchers Silke M. Müller and colleagues say that social zapping appears to involve a certain malevolent and impulsive personality defined by the continual pursuit of better social opportunities while neglecting long-term consequences. Given that research has yet to explore the personality traits that characterize social zappers, Müller and team opted to conduct a study of their own.
The researchers had 190 participants between the ages of 17 and 30 complete questionnaires that included the Social Zapping Scale — a scale designed to assess the tendency to cancel appointments on short notice. The survey also included measures of impulsiveness, procrastination, maximizing tendencies, FoMO (fear of missing out), and the Dark Triad personality traits of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism.
After a series of analyses, the researchers found that all of the measured traits were positively linked to social zapping, except for FoMO. When it came to predictors of social zapping behavior, attentional impulsivity, narcissism, and procrastination were all positive predictors. The strongest predictor of social zapping was Machiavellianism — a Dark personality trait characterized by manipulative tendencies and the endorsement of immoral behavior to gain personal opportunities.
As Müller and colleagues note, this pattern of results suggests that social zapping behavior involves self-centered and short-sighted tendencies. Indeed, forgoing plans at the last minute typically involves the self-centered decision to frustrate and inconvenience others for personal benefits. The fact that attentional impulsivity predicted social zapping suggests that the behavior likely involves the abrupt canceling of plans while being distracted by attractive alternatives. Since procrastination was found to be a predictor, this could mean that social zappers may be delaying the ultimate decision to turn down or accept plans until the last minute.
Interestingly, the trait of fear of missing out was found to negatively predict social zapping. The authors point out that FoMO, which is characterized by anxiety over missing out on an enjoyable experience, includes a prosocial desire to stay involved in what other people are doing. This might explain why it appears to conflict with the anti-social behavior of social zapping.
As the concept of social zapping is a new one that has hardly been explored, Müller and team acknowledge that further research will be important to validate and extend their findings. The authors note that social zapping appears to be linked to behaviors that are implicated in negative online behavior (procrastination, the Dark personality traits, and impulsivity). In light of this, they suggest that future research should consider how social zapping relates to problematic online behavior.
The study, “Predictors of social-zapping behavior: Dark Triad, impulsivity, and procrastination facets contribute to the tendency toward last-minute cancellations”, was authored by Silke M. Müller, Dario Stolze, and Matthias Brand.