A Summary and Analysis of Self-Regulation and Procrastination and related works
Procrastination is a problem for just about anyone that you happen upon these days. It seems just a common problem, but it can also lead to certain problems in regulation. Procrastination is the avoidance of performing a particular activity (academic or not) even though it’s known that it should be done. One such example would be a term paper which a person was given a substantial amount of time to do, yet left it to be done within the last two days before the due date. One definition of procrastination was given as the act of needlessly delaying tasks to the point of experiencing subjective discomfort (Solomon and Rothblum, 1984). Various studies have been done and it’s shown that procrastination is a problem that is more apparent in the academic realm (Ellis and Knaus, 1977). Just as a point of interest, procrastination is more common for term papers than for other tasks, such as studying or assignments. It has been shown that procrastination (academic) can be assessed with simple self-report questionnaires. Some such questionnaires have yielded such information as the negative impact of procrastination on school performance. To the things which people attribute their procrastination? The reasons for these vary. Some claim that they are merely lazy, undisciplined or simply unorganized. Upon studying procrastination further, it’s been found that is it actually a way of displaying internal conflict and protecting a vulnerable sense of self esteem (Burka and Yuen). During a series of experiments, it’s been shown that students who procrastinate generally score higher on anxiety and depression tests, while much lower on self-esteem tests.
In 1991, Deci and Ryan conducted some tests on the Self Determination Theory, distinguishing between doing something for the pleasure of it (intrinsic motivation) and doing something because your actions have been affected by something externally (extrinsic motivation). It was shown that providing any sort of reward for completing the task set before you would decrease any prior intrinsic motivation you may have had. A shift from external regulations to internal regulations is known as internalization. As something becomes more and more internalized, a greater feel of self-initiation can be gained from a task. This theory has proposed five types of this self-regulation (from least autonomous to most autonomous):
amotivation, external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation and intrinsic regulation. With amotivated behaviors, there is no real sense of purpose to what the person is doing or sense of change to the events. External regulation, as discussed earlier, is the behavior which is controlled through external actions or rewards. Introjected regulation is that which has been partially internalized, but not accepted by the person as coming from themselves. (e.g. the person feels guilty for not doing their assignment) Identified regulation is when a person ties their behavior into their final goals or plans. It is accepted as self and as fairly important. Finally, Intrinsic motivation are those behaviors which are taken up for self enjoyment or pleasure. In general, this theory states that autonomous forms of self-regulation can be distinguished from the others in 3 main ways. First, if a person has autonomous reasons for engaging in any sort of task, they will most likely show much more initiative if they feel controlled. (e.g. my parents will kill me if I don’t pass Psych this term) Secondly, if they are engaged in this for autonomous reasons, they will most likely experience an enjoyment (vs. nonautonomous, with which negative feelings are most often associated). Finally, it’s been displayed by Koestner, Berneiere and Zuckerman that most autonomous regulation is associated with more consistent forms of behavior. During the academic studies, it was shown that the first two of the autonomous forms (or students who practice it) seem to be waiting til the last minute to begin their tasks. Meanwhile, the members of the third group give themselves ample time to finish the work that they’ve had set out for them.
In an experiment carried out by the authors of the article (Koestner, Senecal and Vallerand), it was suggested that the autonomous forms of self regulation (intrinsic and identified regulation) are associated with lower rates of procrastination while the less autonomous forms of self regulation lead to higher rates of procrastination. In the actual experiment, questionnaires were completed by 498 French-Canadian students attending a junior college in the Montreal area. (26% of participants were male, with a mean age of 18.6 years) The actual experiment was carried out in the second month of the winter semester and was designed to gain a better feel for what exactly the students were going through in relation to their school activities. In the actual experiment the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) was used, but the French version. This scale was originally developed for the reason of studying students self-regulation styles (academically). In this study, only four of the original seven types of regulation were assessed; intrinsic motivation to know, external regulation, identified motivation and amotivation. There were assorted answers being asked to the subjects, for example “How guilty do you feel for skipping an assignment?” The responses given to these were all answered on a 7 point scale [from not at all (1) to exactly (7)]. In the Academic procrastination scale was used as well in an attempt to determine the extent to which students delay their work and how these delays affect their feelings of guilt. It was also answered in a 7 point scale [from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7)]. An example of a statement that might have been asked on this survey would be, “I feel very guilty for not having studied enough”. There were also four other minor tests done on the subjects; the Self-Esteem Scale, the Depression scale from the Hopkins Symptons Checklist, the Clinical Anxiety Scale and the Demographic Questionnaire. The purposes of these, respectively, were to assess the self esteem of the subject, assess any depressive thoughts the student may be feeling, assess any anxiety the student may be feeling and just general information such as age, sex, grades, duration in school and area of residence.
The correlations were computed among four of the self-regulation scales (the three scales reflecting fear of failure and the academic procrastination scales). It was there proven that academic procrastination is indeed associated with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Looking at the different types of self-regulation, it was found that amotivation and external regulation were positively correlated with procrastination. Also, intrinsic motivation was significantly negatively correlated with procrastination. However, there was one surprise in the results. Identified motivation was not associated in any way with procrastination. Also, an important result was obtained. (though it has been obtained before, it seems to be a relevant piece of information) Through the completion of a t test it was found (as stated earlier, once again) that women actually procrastinate less than men do. (Connell and Ryan) Also, another look at the identified motivation and it’s differing from the expected. It came out as slightly negative in relation to procrastination and was positive related to the regression analysis. Since zero order correlations are historically larger than partial correlations, it seems that some statistical suppression might have been the problem.
In conclusion, this study has clearly shown the amount that students procrastinate is definitely associated with the way that they regulate their academic activity. As predicted, it was shown that students who had extrinsic reasons to complete their work tended towards procrastinating more than the students who had intrinsic reason to carry out with school work. These results don’t just shed light into to academic realm of things though, they’re also an excellent indicator as to the importance of self-regulation in every day life.
In the articles that I will refer to, (as stated in the references section) it seems that they all only bolstered the facts that were presented in the original article (Senecal, Koestner and Vallerand) with the exception of a few points that I found interesting. In the article Relationship Between Time Structure and Procrastination it was proposed that individuals delay task performance to experience a rush or thrill by working against a deadline and leaving it til the last possible minute (Ferrari, 1992). In my humble opinion as a self-admitted procrastinator, I think that that is one of the most foolish things I’ve ever heard. I don’t like the feeling that I have when I’m rushing to get something finished at the last second (this paper for example) and I know that I won’t be able to do as good a job if I do a quick job on it. Just pure foolishness. But, back to the original article, I believe it to be excellently written, it explains everything that it sets out to explain, but it leaves out one important part which I was hoping it would contain. A couple actually. Firstly, I was curious as to why it is that people do procrastinate and secondly, is there any way that it can be cured or helped? Unfortunately, I received no such answers, but I suppose that it wasn’t an experiment made to test or solve such trifles. As to how this article has impacted my thoughts on psychology and my life? My opinion of psychology is unchanged, I realize it is a valid and important part of the sciences today. My opinion of my life? Well, it seems I’m just as confused as to why I’m so lazy as I was before!!!
I didn’t have a whole bunch of luck finding any resources on the subject. Anything in the school library was taken out and when I did find something, I discovered a $30 fine. So, that didn’t work out the way I wanted… and I spent a full day driving around the Okanagan looking for a book which turned out to be lost at the public library. Anyways, enough of my complaining and on to the real stuff. The only real references that I could find were in the OPAC catalogue of journals and such. I just sat down at one of the stations and proceeded to search for “procrastination” in the Social Sciences index. I believe 26 hits came up and I just searched through them to see what there was in the library still. I found 4 which looked promising and found all but one which seemed to have mysteriously disappeared. The internet did not have a huge amount of information, so was left out in this particular paper. I then proceeded to photocopy the right pages, put back the books and stepped out into the sun with coffee in hand.
Harriot, Jesse & Ferrari, J (1996). Prevalence of procrastination among samples of adults. Psychological Reports, 78 611-616
Lay, C. H. (1986) At last, my research article on procrastination. Journal of Research in Personality, 20 474-495
Vodanovich, Stephen J. & Seib, H (1997). Relationship between time structure and procrastination. Psychological Reports, 80 211-215