Determinants of how undergraduate students attend to and perceive features of elective courses
Wolf, Mark B.
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Two studies were conducted to examine the influence of individual differences in reward sensitivity and punishment sensitivity (i.e., the behavioral activation system and the behavioral inhibition system) on course selection preferences. The pilot study was conducted to determine the association of the preference for different course features with individuals' standings on punishment sensitivity and reward sensitivity. Based on the results of the pilot study, course descriptions were developed that resemble the layout of websites (e.g., RateMyProfessors.com) used by students to select courses based on comments made by other students. In general, individual differences in punishment sensitivity were associated with lower ratings of courses, but just on the negatively worded rating items (e.g., "This course would be difficult."), and individual differences in reward sensitivity were associated with higher ratings of courses, but just on the positively worded rating items (e.g., "This course is interesting."). The influence of individual differences in punishment and reward sensitivity remained significant in models that also accounted for the influence of whether the comments were appetitive, aversive, and/or neutral, which indicates that both person and course attributes play a role in determining students' course selection preferences.