Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Akira Miyake

Second Advisor

Alice Healy

Third Advisor

Yuko Munakata

Fourth Advisor

Naomi Friedman

Fifth Advisor

Lawrence Williams

Abstract

This dissertation presents two studies that examined how goal-management abilities are associated with procrastination. The first study was a two-part intervention study designed to (a) examine whether individuals could reduce their academic procrastination, and (b) examine the association between procrastination and the accomplishment of academic goals. In the second study, data from a longitudinal twin study were analyzed to (a) examine whether procrastination in adulthood could be predicted by three cognitive abilities in early childhood, and (b) further understand how procrastination is associated with intelligence.

In the first study, 221 subjects completed an experiment in which they set academic goals and identified the temptations that often cause them to procrastinate. Some subjects also completed interventions in addition to these goal-setting exercises, which focused on elaborative goal-setting (i.e., setting SMART goals) and/or prepared subjects with strategies to resist their temptations (by forming implementation intentions). Results indicated that procrastination was predictive of the success of the goals generated during the exercises, but there were no effects of either intervention on the reduction in academic procrastination (or the accomplishment of academic goals), even when examining relevant moderating variables.

In the second study, I analyzed data from 954 twins who completed measures of self-restraint, attentional control, and IQ in early childhood (ages 1-3 years) and returned for measures of procrastination, goal management, impulsivity, and IQ at age 23. Results indicated that neither self-restraint, attentional control, nor IQ in early childhood were associated with procrastination at the phenotypic or genetic levels, and that procrastination was not associated with IQ even when examining IQ in adolescence or early adulthood.

Together, these findings provided additional, albeit limited, evidence for the association between goal management abilities and procrastination, most strongly with regard to the accomplishment of academic goals. These studies were also the first to directly test the effectiveness of goal-related interventions on procrastination and examine early life correlates of procrastination. Given the lack of conclusive evidence observed here for both of these topics, further research is needed to understand what interventions are effective at reducing procrastination and identify which factors in childhood can predict later life procrastination.

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