Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Metacognitions, Emotions, and Procrastination

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Metacognitions, Emotions, and Procrastination

Article excerpt

The present study explored the relationships between metacognitions, negative emotions, and procrastination. A convenience sample of 179 participants completed the following questionnaires: General Procrastination Scale, Decisional Procrastination Scale, Meta-cognitions Questionnaire 30, Penn State Worry Questionnaire and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. A cross-sectional design was adopted and data analysis consisted of correlation and multiple regression analyses. One dimension of metacognitions was found to be positively and significantly correlated with behavioral procrastination. Four dimensions of metacognitions were found to be positively and significantly correlated with decisional procrastination. Positive and significant relationships were also observed between anxiety, depression and behavioral procrastination; and between anxiety, depression, worry, and decisional procrastination. Multiple regression analyses indicated that depression and beliefs about cognitive confidence independently predicted behavioral procrastination, and that depression and positive beliefs about worry independently predicted decisional procrastination. These preliminary results would seem to suggest that metacognitive theory may be relevant to understanding procrastination.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; worry; metacognitions; procrastination

Procrastination is so common that it hardly seems problematic or worthy of significant scrutiny. However, people that present a chronic behavior of intentional inactivity report experiencing negative emotions because of their inability to complete tasks on time, meet deadlines, or make decisions on minor and major matters of life routine. A range of studies has shown that anxiety, depression, and worry are associated with procrastinatory behavior (Antony, Purdon, Huta, & Swinson, 1998; Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, 1995; Stober & Joormann, 2001; Tallis, Eysenck, & Matthews, 1992).

Research has shown that there are two fundamental types of procrastination (Ferrari, 1993; Milgram & Tenne, 2000). One type is defined as behavioral procrastination (McCown, Johnson, & Petzel, 1989), which is the delay of the completion of major and minor tasks. The other type is decisional procrastination, described as the purposive delay in making decisions within some specific time frame (Effert & Ferrari, 1989).

Although cognitive therapy approaches explain the role of negative beliefs about the self in the maintenance of procrastination (Ellis & Knaus, 1977; Lopez & Wambach, 1982; McCown & Silverman, 1986; Shoham-Saloman, Avner, & Neeman, 1989), they do not explain the mechanisms by which beliefs affect or control the cognitive processing of procrastinators. A number of recent theorists (Wells, 2000; Wells & Matthews, 1994; Wells & Purdon, 1999) have highlighted the limitations of "content-based" cognitive therapy approaches, suggesting a novel framework for conceptualizing cognition in psychological dysfunction that emphasizes metacognition (Wells & Matthews, 1994). Metacognition refers to the beliefs, psychological structures, events, and processes that are implicated in the control, modification, and interpretation of thinking itself (Flavell, 1979; Wells, 2000). The Self-Regulatory Executive Function (S-REF; Wells & Matthews, 1994) theory was the first to conceptualize multiple metacognitive factors as control components of information processing that affect the development and persistence of psychological disorders. In their S-REF theory, Wells and Matthews (1994) suggest that the knowledge base of emotionally vulnerable individuals may be responsible for predisposing them to select and engage in maladaptive cognitive styles and control strategies (such as rumination and worry). More specifically, Wells and Matthews (1994) hypothesized that such strategies are linked to, and supported and directed by, underlying metacognitions regarding their functions and consequences. …

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