What exactly does the assoc_type do?

Describe the issue or problem
When I save a new setting in the user_settings table it is stored with assoc_type = 256.
Once I update this setting from within my code ($userSettingsDao->updateSetting(...)), the old value is kept with assoc_type = 0 and the updated value is saved with assoc_type = 256 (see Additional Information).
What exactly is the assoc_type used for? Is it save to leave the old value with assoc_type = 0 in the database?

What application are you using?
OJS 3.3.0-13

Additional information
Example: orcidID123 is the old value, orcid456 is the updated value