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I could do it now, but I’d rather (forget to) do it later: examining links between procrastination and prospective memory failures

Abstract

Prospective memory (PM) represents the ability to remember to perform planned actions after a certain delay. As previous studies suggest that even brief task-delays can negatively affect PM performance, the current study set out to examine whether procrastination (intentionally delaying task execution despite possible negative consequences) may represent a factor contributing to PM failures. Specifically, we assessed procrastination (via a standardized questionnaire as well as an objective behavioral measure) and PM failures (via a naturalistic PM task) in 92 young adults. Results show that participants’ self-reports as well as their actual procrastination behavior predicted the number of PM failures, corroborating the impact of procrastination on PM. Subsequent cluster analyses suggest three distinct procrastination profiles (non-procrastinators, conscious procrastinators and unconscious procrastinators), providing new conceptual insights into different mechanisms of how procrastinating may lead to forgetting to perform planned tasks.

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Data availability statement

The datasets generated and analyzed for the current study are not publicly available because participant consent forms did not include authorization for public data sharing. However, data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Notes

  1. 1.

    An exploratory factor analysis on the PPS self-reports revealed that item 4 did not distinguish between the two dimensions of procrastination (high factor loadings on voluntary (= 0.44) and observed delay (= 0.49); for details, see Zuber et al. (2020). Consequently, item 4 was removed from subsequent analyses.

  2. 2.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this possibility.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Iasmin Barbosa and Jessica Carbel for help with data collection. We also thank Morgane Budry for help with data preparation and literature research. The authors acknowledge funding from the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Funding

This study was funded by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

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Zuber, S., Ballhausen, N., Haas, M. et al. I could do it now, but I’d rather (forget to) do it later: examining links between procrastination and prospective memory failures. Psychological Research 85, 1602–1612 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-020-01357-6

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