A Conflict Model of procrastination: Explaining the need for deadlines, and why negative affect should not be a defining feature of procrastination


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Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description This theoretical contribution addresses two important questions. The first regards the degree of (in)dependence of delay and subjective discomfort as two components of procrastination. The second regards the justifiability of the controversial idea of increased working efficiency under time pressure, which supposedly discourages procrastinators from working in a timely manner. I address both of these issues in my “conflict model” of procrastination, derived mainly from the control process model of self-regulation and the goal systems theory. The model assumes that undesirable dilatory behaviour results from task-processing conflict, arising at the level of motivation, goal/means representation, and/or task scheduling. Negative affective states are important potential outcomes as well as contributors to the conflict at various levels, but do not constitute a necessary condition for dilatory behaviour. Increased working efficiency before a deadline follows logically from the model as a result of conflict elimination primarily (but not exclusively) at the scheduling level. Apart from introducing key features and predictions of the model, I briefly present findings from four datasets. Two of these studies (N = 238 and 644) provide convincing evidence for measures of delay and affective measures being completely independent, yet robust predictors of self-reported academic procrastination. The other two studies (Ns = 298 and 174) demonstrate that “need for deadlines” to achieve work efficiency is independently predicted by procrastination and positive attitudes to working under pressure, and that the latter consistently moderates the effect of the former on negative self-representations. Based on the data and the conflict model, I argue that (1) it is crucial to distinguish between behavioural and affective components of the “procrastination experience”, and that (2) increased working efficiency under time pressure is a real phenomenon, which, however, is not necessarily associated either with “preference for pressure,” or with a lack of negative emotional experience.

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