SPSP, Achievement Goals and Procrastination. Steven J. Scher, Lori L. Nelson, & Nicole M. Osterman. Eastern Illinois University

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1 SPSP, Achievement Goals and Procrastination Steven J. Scher, Lori L. Nelson, & Nicole M. Osterman Eastern Illinois University Presented at the 1 st Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Nashville, TN, February, Address correspondence to: Steven J. Scher, Department of Psychology, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920

2 SPSP, Introduction Recent achievement goal theories (see Urdan, 1997 for a review) posit three types of goals. Mastery goals are focused on developing one s skills and learning. Ego goals are focused around the standards of self and significant others. Task goals are focused on the qualities of the task. Recent work has also proposed that at least some of these goals can come in both approach and avoidance versions (e.g., Elliot, 1997; Skaalvik, 1997). Particular attention has been applied to Mastery-approach goals, Task-avoidance goals, and to Ego-approach and Ego-avoidance goals. Scher & Ferrari (2000) examined differences between tasks that participants complete and tasks which they put off or procrastinated. For 5 consecutive days, participants reported tasks they intended to do within the upcoming 24 hour period. They also indicated which of their previously reported tasks they had actually completed. All tasks were rated on 15 dimensions. Factor analyses of the task ratings suggested one factor which corresponded to Mastery: the tasks were seen as being creative, requiring skill, and creating self-confidence. A second factor represented a Task Avoidance factor (Task Aversiveness): tasks were seen as requiring effort and producing anxiety. The third factor suggested a Task Approach factor (Pleasure): tasks were seen as relaxing and pleasurable. We conducted two studies to further explore the role of approach and avoidance goals in procrastination. In both studies, we measured goal orientation -- the dispositional tendency to place greater importance on one or more of the achievement goals; we correlated these orientations with scales designed to measure dispositional procrastination. In study two, we also asked participants to describe tasks that they had completed, put off, and what they did instead of the completed tasks. These tasks were rated on the degree to which they met achievement goals, and the achievement goal ratings were used to predict completion of tasks. Study One - Method

3 SPSP, Students (32 in Grade 3, 40 in Grade 4, and 48 in Grade 5) completed a measure of procrastination and conscientiousness developed by Lay, Kovacs, & Danto (1998), as well as an English translation of a goal orientation scale developed by Skaalvik (1997). Measures The procrastination and conscientiousness measure contains 12 items designed to measure procrastination, and 26 items designed to measure conscientiousness. The procrastination items were adapted from Lay s (1986) general procrastination scale. The conscientiousness items are designed to measure the six facets of conscientiousness (competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, selfdiscipline, and deliberation) represented in the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Respondents respond to each item by choosing which of two statements most closely resembles them (e.g., Some kids like to do things they find hard right away BUT Other kids like to leave things they find hard for later. ). After choosing the most self-descriptive statement, respondents are asked to choose whether that statement is Really like me or Kind of like me. The goal orientation scales (GOS) were developed by Skaalvik (1997). The task orientation scale (6 items) measures a tendency to approach tasks that provide mastery; the avoidance orientation scale (4 items) measures a tendency to avoid tasks which are difficult or require a lot of effort. The selfenhancing orientation scale (5 items) measures the ego-approach orientation: a tendency to approach situations that provide an opportunity to show that one is smarter or otherwise superior to others; the selfdefeating orientation scale (7 items) measures ego-avoidance: the tendency to avoid situations where one may appear stupid or where they may be negatively judged by others.

4 SPSP, Study One - Results Procrastination and conscientiousness were highly correlated (r = -.68, p <.001). Table 1 reports correlations between these constructs and the goal orientations. Individuals who tend to be motivated to avoid difficult or anxiety-provoking tasks (i.e., those high on avoidance orientation) tend to be less conscientious and to procrastinate more. Those with a task (i.e., mastery) orientation were more conscientious and less likely to procrastinate. The ego-based orientations (self-enhancing and selfdefeating) were not related to procrastination or conscientiousness at all. Study Two In Study Two, we begin by replicating the findings from Study One with an older sample (College Students). We also further explore the goal-based nature of the tasks that people procrastinate. Method - Part One Two hundred and fifty-eight University undergraduates completed 3 procrastination measures: Lay s (1986) General Procrastination Measure (GP), McCown & Johnson s (1989) Adult Inventory of Procrastination (AIP), and Mann s (1982) Decisional Procrastination Scale (DP). They also completed Skaalvik s (1997) GOS and the Positive and Negative Affect Scales (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). Results - Part One As reported in Table 2, the current results generally replicate the findings with school children. College students who show a Task Orientation (Mastery) have lower scores on the procrastination measures. On the other hand, Avoidance Orientation is negatively correlated with procrastination. The correlations among the Ego-based orientations (Self-enhancing and Self-defeating) and the procrastination measures are not as non-existent as in Study One, but they are smaller than the correlations with the task-related orientations. Furthermore, the statistical significance of correlations between the Ego-related orientations

5 SPSP, and procrastination are rather inconsistent, while the correlations between the procrastination measures and the Task-related orientations are consistent. Study Two - Method - Part Two In addition to completing the individual difference measures described above, participants in Study 2 were asked to nominate three tasks -- one that they had intended to do within the past 24 hours and had actually completed, one that they had intended to do within the past 24 hours and had put off doing, and the task they had done instead of the one that they put off. The order that these nominations were made was completely counter-balanced. After naming each task, participants rated the task on 39 dimensions (see Table 3) chosen to represent 5 goal-related factors: ego-approach, ego-avoidance, task aversiveness, mastery, and pleasure. They also indicated how much time they had spent on the task. (Alpha-reliability for scales formed for the five goal factors, for each type of task [completed, procrastinated, and alternative], ranged from.73 to.92). Study Two - Results - Part Two An analysis of variance on the ratings of the tasks is reported in Table 4. Given the high power available from the large sample (n=258) and repeated measures design of this analysis, it is not surprising to find that the different types of tasks were significantly different on all five factors. In order to get a more subtle picture of the effects of the different factors, we used hierarchical linear modeling techniques to analyze how well the goal-factors predict how much time people spend on each task. Despite having almost 750 observations (745 tasks), a model with all five goal factors as predictors did not converge. Therefore, we estimated two separate models -- one with the ego-related factors (ego approach and ego avoidance) and one with the task related factors (mastery, pleasure, and task aversiveness).

6 SPSP, These results confirm the relative importance of task-related factors, and the relative lack of importance of ego related factors. Firstly, on all available model-fit statistics, the task-based model provided a better fit to the data than did the ego-based model. For example, Bozdogan s consistent version of Akaike s Information Criterion (CAIC; Bozdogan, 1987) was for the task-related model, and was for the ego-related model. (In this case, CAIC is reported in a form where smaller values indicate greater fit). In addition to this greater fit, however, Table 5 shows that while two of the task-related goals (pleasure and task aversiveness) were significant predictors of time spent on the task, neither of the ego-related goals were significant predictors. In contrast to previous findings (Scher & Ferrari, 2000), mastery did not emerge as a significant predictor of time spent on tasks. However, the finding from Scher & Ferrari s study included an interaction between mastery and positive affect scores on the PANAS. Therefore, we re-analyzed the data from the current study to explore the possibility that such an interaction exists. Specifically, we began by estimating the models described above, with the addition of the positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) subscales from the PANAS as person-level predictors. The conclusions from these analyses were identical to those from the analyses without the PANAS (see Table 5). We then analyzed a model including task-related factors, the PA and NA subscales, and interactions between each of the taskrelated factors and PA. The fit of this model was almost identical to the fit of the model including the PANAS and the task-related factors. Choosing between them was impossible. However, in this model (Table 6), neither the pleasure nor the task aversiveness ratings are significant predictors of time spent on the task. However, both mastery and the interaction between mastery and PA are significant predictors.

7 SPSP, Conclusions The findings from the current research converge toward the importance of task-related goals in procrastination and task completion. Task-related, rather than ego-related, goal orientations were consistently correlated with scores on dispositional procrastination scales. Furthermore, task-based ratings of tasks consistently predicted the amount of time participants reported spending on tasks, while ego-based goals were less successful in explaining variance in time spent on tasks. While more research is needed to clarify which specific task-based factors are the most important, it is worthwhile directing attention toward qualities of tasks in determining when people will procrastinate. References Bozdogan, H. (1987). Model selection and Akaike s information criteria (AIC): The general theory and its analytical extensions. Psychometrika, 52, Costa, P.T. & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Manual for the Revised NEO Personality Inventory and NEO Five-factor Inventory. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Elliot, A.J. (1997). Integrating the classic and contemporary approaches to achievement motivation: A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. Advances in Motivation and Achievement, 10, Lay, C.H. (1986). At last, my research article on procrastination. Journal of Research in Personality, 20, Lay, C.H., Kovacs, A., & Danto, D. (1998). The relations of trait procrastination to the big-five factor conscientiousness: An assessment with primary-junior school children based on self-report scales. Personality and Individual Differences, 25, Mann, L. (1982). Decision-making questionnaire. Unpublished inventory, Flinders University of South Australia, Australia.

8 SPSP, McCown, W. & Johnson, J. (1989). Validation of an adult inventory of procrastination. Paper presented at the Society for Personality Assessment, New York. Scher, S.J. & Ferrari, J.R. (2000). Procrastination: A task-level analysis. Manuscript under editorial review. Skaalvik, E.M. (1997). Self-enhancing and self-defeating ego orientation: Relations with task and avoidance orientation, achievement, self-perceptions, and anxiety. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, Urdan, T.C. (1997). Achievement goal theory: Past results, future directions. Advances in Motivation and Achievement, 10, Watson, D. Clark, L.E., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54,

9 SPSP, Table 1 Correlations Between Achievement Goal Orientations and Procrastination/Conscientiousness among 3 rd to 5 th Graders TASK ORIENTATION (" =.74) AVOIDANCE ORIENTATION (" =.60) SELF-ENHANCING ORIENTATION (" =.82) SELF-DEFEATING ORIENTATION (" =.76) PROCRASTINATION (" =.73) CONSCIENTIOUSNESS (" =.74) -.40***.49***.33*** -.35*** *** - p <.01; Higher scores reflect greater tendency to procrastinate, greater conscientiousness, and more of each type of goal orientation.

10 SPSP, Table 2 Correlations Between Achievement Goal Orientations and Procrastination among Adults (Study 2) TASK ORIENTATION (" =.77) AVOIDANCE ORIENTATION (" =.73) SELF-ENHANCING ORIENTATION (" =.77) SELF-DEFEATING ORIENTATION (" =.86) DP (" =.76) AIP (" =.85) GP (" =.86) -.26** -.26** -.27**.29**.27**.20** * *.15** * - p <.10; ** - p <.05; DP = Decisional Procrastionation Scale; AIP = Adult Inventory of Procrastination; GP = Lay s General Procrastionation Scale

11 SPSP, Table 3 Rating Dimensions (Study Two) Mastery Tests my abilities Is an active task Challenges me Is creative Makes me feel like I m learning Pleasure Is enjoyable Is pleasurable Is relaxing Is stimulating Task Avoidance Is anxiety provoking Is difficult Causes discomfort Requires effort Is frustrating Takes a long time Requires thought Makes me feel uneasy Is unpleasant Ego Approach Shows my competence Lets me live up to the expectations of my friends and family Is an important task in the eyes of my friends Is an important task in the eyes of my family Provides an opportunity to show my skill Creates self-confidence Raises my self-esteem Allows me to live up to my standards for myself Ego Avoidance Is difficult to do at the level I expect of myself. Makes me feel disappointed. Makes me feel embarrassed Makes me feel guilty Makes me look bad Makes me feel that I am stupid Makes others make fun of me. Makes me feel that I am not good at something Makes others think I m stupid Makes me feel like I can t reach my fullest potential. Makes me question my abilities. Makes me sad. Shows my shortcomings.

12 SPSP, Table 4 Achievement Goal Differences as a Function of Task Type Study 2 Put Off Tasks Completed Tasks Alternative Tasks Ego Avoidance 2.1 a 1.8 b 1.9 c F (2, 498) = 10.92, p <.05 Ego Approach 3.4 a 3.9 b 3.1 c F (2, 496) = 22.00, p <.05 Task Avoidance 3.9 a 3.5 b 2.8 c F (2, 502) = 37.10, p <.05 Mastery 3.8 a 4.0 a 3.3 b F (2, 504) = 12.25, p <.05 Pleasure 2.8 a 3.3 b 4.6 c F (2, 502) = 64.41, p <.05 NOTE: Within rows, means with different subscripts are significantly different by Tukey s Honestly Significant Difference Post-Hoc Test.

13 SPSP, Table 5 Hierarchical Linear Modeling Results Predicting Time Spent on Task Ego-related Factors Only Ego-related Factors and the PANAS Task-related Factors Only Predictor Estimate Estimate Estimate Estimate Task-related Factors and the PANAS Intercept (10.53) (33.19) 2.04 (10.64) (28.22) PA (.70) (0.60) NA (.66) (0.56) Ego Approach 1.87 (2.51) 1.78 (2.59) Ego Avoidance 4.95 (6.61) 4.91 (3.73) Mastery (2.75) (2.79) Pleasure (2.43)*** (2.49)*** Task Avoidance (3.27)*** 9.48 (3.30)*** *** - p <.01; NOTE: Values in parentheses are standard errors. PANAS = Positive and Negative Affect Scales; PA and NA = Positive & Negative Subscales of the PANAS.

14 SPSP, Table 6 Hierarchical Linear Model Predicting Time Spent on Task, including interactions with PA Predictor Estimate Intercept (64.98) PA 1.12 (1.85) NA (0.56) Mastery (18.37) Pleasure (15.13) Task Aversiveness (20.45) PA X Mastery -0.99(0.52)** PA X Pleasure 0.09 (0.42) PA X Task Aversiveness 0.53 (0.59) ** - p =.05; - p =.06; NOTE: PA and NA are the subscales of the Positive and Negative Affect Scales.

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