Earlier research has implicated metacognitions and attentional control in procrastination and self-regulatory failure. This study tested several hypotheses: (1) that metacognitions would be positively correlated with decisional procrastination; (2) that attentional control would be negatively correlated with decisional procrastination; (3) that metacognitions would be negatively correlated with attentional control; and (4) that metacognitions and attentional control would predict decisional procrastination when controlling for negative affect. One hundred and twenty-nine participants completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21, the Meta-Cognitions Questionnaire 30, the Attentional Control Scale, and the Decisional Procrastination Scale. Significant relationships were found between all three attentional control factors (focusing, shifting, and flexible control of thought) and two metacognitions factors (negative beliefs concerning thoughts about uncontrollability and danger, and cognitive confidence). Results also revealed that decisional procrastination was significantly associated with negative affect, all measured metacognitions factors, and all attentional control factors. In the final step of a hierarchical regression analysis only stress, cognitive confidence, and attention shifting were independent predictors of decisional procrastination. Overall these findings support the hypotheses and are consistent with the Self-Regulatory Executive Function model of psychological dysfunction. The implications of these findings are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Baumeister, R. F., & Heatherton, T. F. (1996). Self-regulation failure: An overview. Psychological Inquiry, 7, 1–15.
Baumeister, R. F., Heatherton, T. F., & Tice, D. M. (1994). Losing control: How and why people fail at self-regulation. London: Academic Press.
Beswick, G., Rothblum, E. D., & Mann, L. (1988). Psychological antecedents of student procrastination. Australian Psychologist, 23, 207–217.
Blunt, A. K., & Pychyl, T. A. (2000). Task aversiveness and procrastination: A multi-dimensional approach to task aversiveness across stages of personal projects. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 153–167.
Burka, J. B., & Yuen, L. M. (2008). Procrastination: Why you do it, what to do about it now. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.
Crawford, J. R., & Henry, J. D. (2003). The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS): Normative data and latent structure in a large non-clinical sample. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 42, 111–131.
Derryberry, D., & Reed, M. A. (2002). Anxiety-related attentional biases and their regulation by attentional control. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 225.
DiGiuseppe, R., Doyle, K. A., Dryden, W., & Backx, W. (2014). A practioner’s Guide to rational emotive behavior therapy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Effert, B. R., & Ferrari, J. R. (1989). Decisional procrastination: Examining personality correlates. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality, 4, 151–161.
Ellis, A., & Dryden, W. (1997). The practice of rational emotive behavior therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.
Ellis, A., & Knaus, W. J. (1977). Overcoming procrastination: Or how to think and act rationally in spite of life’s inevitable hassles. New York, NY: Institute for Rational Living.
Fernie, B. A., & Spada, M. M. (2008). Metacognitions about procrastination: A preliminary investigation. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 359–364.
Fernie, B. A., Spada, M. M., Nikčević, A. V., Georgiou, G. A., & Moneta, G. B. (2009). Metacognitive beliefs about procrastination: Development and concurrent validity of a self-report questionnaire. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23, 283–293.
Ferrari, J. R. (1994). Dysfunctional procrastination and its relationship with self-esteem, interpersonal dependency, and self-defeating behaviors. Personality and Individual Differences, 17, 673–679.
Ferrari, J. R. (2000). Procrastination and attention: Factor analysis of attention deficit, boredomness, intelligence, self-esteem, and task delay frequencies. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality, 15, 185–196.
Ferrari, J. R. (2001). Procrastination as self-regulation failure of performance: Effects of cognitive load, self-awareness, and time limits on ‘working best under pressure’. European Journal of Personality, 15, 391–406.
Ferrari, J. R., & Scher, S. J. (2000). Toward an understanding of academic and nonacademic tasks procrastinated by students: The use of daily logs. Psychology in the Schools, 37, 359–366.
Flett, G. L., Stainton, M., Hewitt, P. L., Sherry, S. B., & Lay, C. (2012). Procrastination automatic thoughts as a personality construct: An analysis of the procrastinatory cognitions inventory. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 30, 223–236.
Haghbin, M., McCaffrey, A., & Pychyl, T. A. (2012). The complexity of the relation between fear of failure and procrastination. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 30, 249–263.
Harriott, J., & Ferrari, J. R. (1996). Prevalence of procrastination among samples of adults. Psychological Reports, 78, 611–616.
Haycock, L. A., McCarthy, P., & Skay, C. L. (1998). Procrastination in college students: The role of self-efficacy and anxiety. Journal of Counseling & Development, 76, 317–324.
Ingram, R. E. (1990). Self-focused attention in clinical disorders: Review and a conceptual model. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 156.
Judah, M. R., Grant, D. M., Mills, A. C., & Lechner, W. V. (2014). Factor structure and validation of the attentional control scale. Cognition and Emotion, 28, 433–451.
Lovibond, P. F., & Lovibond, S. H. (1995). The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) with the Beck Depression and Anxiety Inventories. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 335–343.
Mann, L. (1982). Decision-making questionnaire. Unpublished scale. Flinders University of South Australia.
Mathews, A., Yiend, J., & Lawrence, A. D. (2004). Individual differences in the modulation of fear-related brain activation by attentional control. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 1683–1694.
McCown, B., Blake, I. K., & Keiser, R. (2012). Content analyses of the beliefs of academic procrastinators. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 30, 213–222.
Normann, N., van Emmerik, A. A., & Morina, N. (2014). The efficacy of metacognitive therapy for anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Depression and Anxiety, 31, 402–411.
Page, A. C., Hooke, G. R., & Morrison, D. L. (2007). Psychometric properties of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) in depressed clinical samples. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46, 283–297.
Rabin, L. A., Fogel, J., & Nutter-Upham, K. E. (2011). Academic procrastination in college students: The role of self-reported executive function. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 33, 344–357.
Rozental, A., Andersson, G., & Carlbring, P. (2014). Randomized controlled trial of internet-based cognitive behavior therapy for procrastination. Paper presented at the EABCT 2014: 44th congress of the European association for behavioural & cognitive therapies, September 10–13, 2014, The Netherlands: The Hague.
Rozental, A., & Carlbring, P. (2013). Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy for procrastination: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 2(2), e46.
Senecal, C., Koestner, R., & Vallerand, R. J. (1995). Self-regulation and academic procrastination. Journal of Social Psychology, 135, 607–619.
Sinclair, S. J., Siefert, C. J., Slavin-Mulford, J. M., Stein, M. B., Renna, M., & Blais, M. A. (2012). Psychometric evaluation and normative data for the depression, anxiety, and stress scales-21 (DASS-21) in a nonclinical sample of US adults. Evaluation and the Health Professions, 35, 259–279.
Sirois, F., & Pychyl, T. (2013). Procrastination and the priority of short-term mood regulation: Consequences for future self. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 115–127.
Solomon, L. J., & Rothblum, E. D. (1984). Academic procrastination—Frequency and cognitive-behavioral correlates. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31(4), 503–509.
Spada, M. M., Georgiou, G. A., & Wells, A. (2010). The relationship among metacognitions, attentional control, and state anxiety. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 39, 64–71.
Spada, M. M., Hiou, K., & Nikcevic, A. V. (2006). Metacognitions, emotions, and procrastination. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 20, 319–326.
Spada, M. M., Mohiyeddini, C., & Wells, A. (2008). Measuring metacognitions associated with emotional distress: Factor structure and predictive validity of the metacognitions questionnaire 30. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 238–242.
Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 65.
Stöber, J., & Joormann, J. (2001). Worry, procrastination, and perfectionism: Differentiating amount of worry, pathological worry, anxiety, and depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 49–60.
Van Eerde, W. (2003). A meta-analytically derived nomological network of procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 1401–1418.
Vodanovich, S. J., & Rupp, D. E. (1999). Are procrastinators prone to boredom? Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 27, 11–16.
Vytal, K., Cornwell, B., Arkin, N., & Grillon, C. (2012). Describing the interplay between anxiety and cognition: From impaired performance under low cognitive load to reduced anxiety under high load. Psychophysiology, 49, 842–852.
Wells, A. (2002). Emotional disorders and metacognition: Innovative cognitive therapy. New York, NY: Wiley.
Wells, A. (2011). Metacognitive therapy for anxiety and depression. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Wells, A. (2013). Advances in metacognitive therapy. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 6, 186–201.
Wells, A., & Cartwright-Hatton, S. (2004). A short form of the metacognitions questionnaire: Properties of the MCQ-30. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 385–396.
Wells, A., & Matthews, G. (1994). Attention and emotion: A clinical perspective. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Wells, A., & Matthews, G. (1996). Modelling cognition in emotional disorder: The S-REF model. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34, 881–888.
Author B.F. receives salary support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Mental Health Biomedical Research Centre and Dementia Research Unit at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.
About this article
Cite this article
Fernie, B.A., McKenzie, A., Nikčević, A.V. et al. The Contribution of Metacognitions and Attentional Control to Decisional Procrastination. J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther 34, 1–13 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10942-015-0222-y
- Attentional control