Affective Responses before and after Fraudulent Excuses by Academic Procrastinators

Article excerpt

Approximately 70% of U.S. college students engage in frequent academic procrastination (Ellis & Knaus, 1977; Hill, Hill, Chabot, & Barrall, 1978), the purposive delay in beginning or completing academically-related tasks. Studies indicate that fear of failure and aversiveness of the task may be primary motives for academic procrastination (Milgram, Batori, & Mowrer, 1993; Schouwenburg, 1995: Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). College students reported procrastinating more often when writing a term paper than when reading an assignment, studying for an exam, or attending to academic and administrative tasks (Rothblum, Solomon, & Murakami, 1986; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). Frequent academic procrastination has been found across racial categories and regardless of student gender (Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, 1995). Academic procrastination also is associated with missing deadlines for submitting assignments, delaying the taking of self-paced quizzes, claiming test anxiety, obtaining low course and semester grades, and low cumulative GPA (Beswick, Rothblum, & Mann, 1988; Clark & Hill, 1994; Lay & Burns, 1991; Rothblum et al., 1986; Wolfe & Johnson, 1995).

In sum, it seems that academic procrastination may be a way to escape immediate (perceived) aversive tasks or consequences, but seems to have negative consequences for the person (Ferrari, et al., 1995). The present study sought to investigate the "affective experiences of fibbing" by academic procrastinators. Specifically, college students stated their positive or negative affect when phony reasons or excuses for delaying academic related tasks. This information may contribute to an understanding of the relationship between affect and forms of procrastination (Lay, 1995; Lay & Silverman, 1996). Furthermore, it may provide useful information for educational personnel who design intervention programs for college students.

Few studies have investigated the desire by students to avoid academic tasks by generating academic excuses. In an unpublished master's thesis, Beck (1985) reported that 60% of college students reported using a false excuse to avoid taking a scheduled test or turning in an assignment on time. Keene, Levine, and Ferrari (1995) replicated this study by comparing students from colleges with selective or nonselective admission standards. In that study greater than 65% of students across settings self-reported that they used phony excuses. Caron, Krauss-Whitbourne, and Halgin (1992) found that while 68% of college students reported using fraudulent excuses, over 90% of the time instructors fail to ask for evidence or "proof" for the proposed excuses. To the extent that procrastination is a purposive avoidance strategy, it follows that academic procrastinators exceed nonprocrastinators in generating excuses for not completing academic tasks.

In addition, research has found that negative affect was related to chronic, everyday procrastination (Lay, 1995). From four experimental studies, Lay (1995) concluded that chronic procrastinators compared to nonprocrastinators more often experienced dejection-related emotions (depression) when faced with academically-related tasks. Dejection emotions were reported by trait procrastinators when simply asked to indicate how they felt during the past week or at the moment, and when rating how they felt about ongoing projects involving deadlines or study behaviors prior to an exam. Agitation-related emotions (e.g., anxiety) were unrelated to the academic set of tasks. Lay and Silverman (1996) reported that agitation among chronic procrastinators played a minor (at best) role in predicting dilatory behavior either at pre-examination or exam-day. Studies found that chronic, everyday procrastination and situational academic procrastination are related, but not identical concepts (see Ferrari et al., 1995). Despite the association between chronic procrastination and affect, it is unclear how procrastination in academic situations may be related to their emotional responses to phony excuses. …