The Ecological Momentary Assessment of Procrastination in Daily Life: Psychometric Properties of a Five-Item Short Scale

By Wieland, Lena M.; Grunschel, Carola et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, June 2018 | Go to article overview

The Ecological Momentary Assessment of Procrastination in Daily Life: Psychometric Properties of a Five-Item Short Scale


Wieland, Lena M., Grunschel, Carola, Limberger, Matthias F., Schlotz, Wolff, Ferrari, Joseph R., Ebner-Priemer, Ulrich W., North American Journal of Psychology


Procrastination is a well-known phenomenon defined as "the voluntary, irrational postponement of an intended course of action despite the knowledge that this delay will come at a cost to or have negative effects on the individual" (Simpson & Pychyl, 2009, p. 906; see also Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, 1995). International prevalence rates reveal that up to 28% of the adult general population chronically engages in procrastinatory behavior (Ferrari, Diaz-Moralez, O'Callaghan, Diaz, & Argumedo, 2007). According to estimates, 20% to 70% of university students procrastinate in study-related tasks (academic procrastination) on a regular basis (Day, Mensink, & O'Sullivan, 2000; Schouwenburg, 2004; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). Moreover, the frequent engagement in (academic) procrastination is associated with deficiencies in academic performance, heightened stress levels, depressive symptoms, anxiety, social conflicts, and decreased overall life satisfaction or physical wellbeing (Beutel et al., 2016; Grunschel, Patrzek, & Fries, 2013a; Klassen, Krawchuk, & Rajani, 2008; Sirois, Melia-Gordon, & Pychyl, 2003; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984; Tice & Baumeister, 1997). Therefore, empirical evidence consistently shows that frequent or excessive engagement in procrastination is maladaptive (Ferrari, 2010).

Prone to procrastinate

Research on the causes and consequences of procrastination typically aggregated scores of self-report measures to assess participants' average tendency to engage in dilatory behavior (Ferrari et al., 1995; Steel, 2007; Van Eerde, 2003). The conception that procrastination is not only connected with certain personality characteristics (Ferrari & Emmons, 1995; Johnson & Bloom, 1995; Lee, Kelly, & Edwards, 2006; Tibbett & Ferrari, 2015; Watson, 2001) but can be denoted as a continuous trait-like construct in itself (Schouwenburg, 2004) has promoted the common practice of categorizing the population under investigation into procrastinators and non-procrastinators. Therefore, individuals with a strong predisposition to procrastinate should engage in procrastinatory behavior more frequently than individuals with a weak predisposition to procrastinate. More importantly, this conception implicitly predicts that some (more or less pronounced) tendency to procrastinate should be reflected in behavior irrespective of temporal, situational, or contextual circumstances (e.g., Van Eerde, 2003).

Procrastination as behavior in context

Whether an individual actually engages in procrastination also seems to be influenced by context or task characteristics (Ferrari & Scher, 2000; Klingsieck, 2013a; Pychyl, Lee, Thibodeau, & Blunt, 2000; Rothblum, Solomon & Murakami, 1986). First, procrastination can be domain specific in the sense that a person may procrastinate on some tasks or in specific contexts but not to the same degree in different life-domains (Klingsieck, 2013a). Second, a task might have certain properties that are negatively appraised by the individual, who avoids dealing with it as a result. This was demonstrated for tasks perceived as unpleasant, aversive, stressful, difficult or effortful (Blunt & Pychyl, 2000; Ferrari & Scher, 2000; Pychyl et al., 2000). Moreover, temporal motivation theory (TMT: Steel & Konig, 2006) predicts that the probability of engaging in procrastinatory behavior should decrease when the deadline for task completion approaches. Therefore, the occurrence of procrastinatory behavior should be time-dependent. Unfortunately, few studies have examined the assumption of time-dependence using longitudinal designs. Those studies testify that the behavioral manifestation of a tendency to procrastinate (observed dilatory behavior) is a time-dependent phenomenon (e.g., Dewitte & Schouwenburg, 2002; Howell, Watson, Powell, & Buro, 2006; Moon & Illingworth, 2005; Tice & Baumeister, 1997). …

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