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The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 2005, 166(1), 514

The Relationship of Motivation and Flow Experience to Academic Procrastination in University Students
EUNJU LEE School of Humanities and Social Sciences Halla University, South Korea

ABSTRACT. In this article, the author examined the relationships of motivation and flow experience to academic procrastination in 262 Korean undergraduate students who completed a questionnaire on procrastination, flow, and motivation. The results indicated that high procrastination was associated with lack of self-determined motivation and low incidence of flow state. The results also indicated that, although amotivation and intrinsic motivation showed significant unique effects on procrastination, they did not contribute significantly to the variance in procrastination when the effects caused by flow experiences were considered. The author discusses implications for practice and gives suggestions for further research. Key words: flow, procrastination, self-determined motivation

PROCRASTINATION is the lack or absence of self-regulated performance and the tendency to put off or completely avoid an activity under ones control (Tuckman & Sexton, 1989). As a student proceeds through school, the responsibility for controlling performance shifts progressively from parents and teachers to the student, and it reaches a high point during the college years. According to Solomon and Rothblum (1984), as many as 50% of college students procrastinate on academic tasks at least half of the time and an additional 38% report procrastinating occasionally. Procrastination is a behavior that is endemic in the academic domain, and it may be related to problems encountered by many college students. Solomon and Rothblum (1984) have shown that students who habitually procrastinate believe that their tendency to procrastinate significantly interferes with their academic
An earlier version of this article was presented at the meeting of the International Association of Applied Psychology, Singapore, July 2002. Address correspondence to Eunju Lee, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Halla University, San 66, Heungup, Wonju, 220712, South Korea; elee@hit.halla.ac.kr (e-mail).

The Journal of Genetic Psychology

standing, capacity to master classroom material, and the quality of their lives. Rothblum, Solomon, and Murakami (1986) also suggested that procrastination might be detrimental to academic performance, possibly leading to greater course withdrawal and lower grades. Wesley (1994) supported these findings by showing that procrastination was a significant negative predictor of college grade point average. Sencal, Koestner, and Vallerand (1995) have suggested that academic procrastination is a motivational problem that involves more than poor time management skills or trait laziness. Procrastinators are difficult to motivate and, therefore, are likely to put off doing school assignments and studying for exams until the last possible moment (Tuckman, 1998). They may have difficulty acquiring new knowledge if steps are not taken to enhance their motivation. According to Tuckman and Sexton (1989), procrastination is the lack or absence of self-regulated performance. Self-regulation concerns the way in which individuals use internal and external cues to determine when to initiate, when to maintain, and when to terminate their goal-directed actions. Researchers have suggested that self-regulation can have powerful effects on academic outcomes such as persistence, performance, learning, and affect (Vallerand & Bissonnette, 1992; Vallerand et al., 1992, 1993). Sencal et al. (1995) suggested that procrastination is another outcome that may be associated with self-regulation styles in the academic domain. Deci and Ryan (1985, 1991) have offered a comprehensive theory of selfregulation. They distinguished among different forms of motivation on the basis of the degree to which they can be considered self-determined. Those researchers posited four main types of motivation that exist along a self-determination continuum. The four forms of motivation (from most self-determined to least selfdetermined) are: (a) intrinsic motivation, (b) self-determined extrinsic motivation, (c) non-self-determined extrinsic motivation, and (d) amotivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to the engagement in an activity for its own sake or for the pleasure and satisfaction derived from the experience (Deci, 1975). In contrast, extrinsically motivated behaviors are instrumental in nature and are performed as a means to an end (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Deci and Ryan further classified extrinsic motivation into two types: self-determined extrinsic motivation and non-self-determined extrinsic motivation. Self-determined extrinsic motivation is exhibited when individuals willingly participate in an activity because it is valued and perceived to be of importance. Non-self-determined extrinsic motivation is exhibited when individuals place pressure on themselves to perform an activity or when their behaviors are perceived to be controlled by external factors. Finally, amotivation is characterized by the absence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Individuals who feel that they have no sense of control over their actions exemplify this condition. In short, Deci and Ryan (1985, 1991) posited two forms of self-determined motivation (i.e., intrinsic motivation, self-determined extrinsic motivation) and


two forms of non-self-determined motivation (i.e., non-self-determined extrinsic motivation, amotivation). Extrinsic motivation is classified into self-determined and non-self-determined extrinsic motivation, whereas intrinsic motivation is selfdetermined. Sencal et al. (1995) suggested that students who had intrinsic reasons for pursuing their studies were less likely to procrastinate, whereas those who had extrinsic reasons were more likely to procrastinate. These previous findings lead one to question if the relationship of procrastination to motivation is different depending on whether motivation is self-determined or non-self-determined. However, few researchers have examined this proposition. On the basis of previous research results, I expected that procrastination would negatively correlate with self-determined motivation and positively correlate with non-self-determined motivation. That is, students with high self-determined extrinsic motivation, although they are extrinsically motivated, would be less likely to procrastinate. I also examined the flow experience of academic procrastinators. When doing an activity, students sometimes become totally immersed in the activity to the point of losing awareness of time, surroundings, and all other things except the activity itself. Csikszentmihalyi (1975, 1990) used the term flow to describe this optimal psychological state. The flow state includes many, if not all, of the following characteristics: (a) the existence of a balance between the perceived skills of an individual and the perceived challenges of a situation, (b) the presence of clear goals, (c) the presence of unambiguous feedback, (d) concentration on the task at hand, (e) a loss of self-consciousness, and (f) a transformation of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Jackson & Marsh, 1996). Many researchers have suggested that individuals who are highly motivated would experience high instances of the flow state (Csikszentmihalyi & LeFevre, 1989; Graef, Csikszentmihalyi, & McManama-Gianinno, 1983; Haworth & Hill, 1992). Specifically, Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre demonstrated a positive link between intrinsic motivation and the experience of this psychological state. When people are freely doing what interests them (intrinsically motivated behaviors), their behaviors are characterized by concentration and engagement that occurs spontaneously and they become wholly absorbed in the activity (Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 1989). More recently, Kowal and Fortier (1999) demonstrated that individuals who were motivated in a self-determined manner reported high instances of flow. They suggested that self-determined forms of motivation might facilitate flow, whereas non-self-determined forms of motivation might have detrimental influences on flow states. Somuncuoglu and Yildirim (1999) also suggested that students who were motivated in a self-determined manner were likely to be deeply engaged in their learning process and to consequently experience the flow state. Flow is an intrinsically enjoyable state and is accompanied by a number of positive experiential characteristics, including feelings of control and enjoyment of the process (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Therefore, one can assume that students

The Journal of Genetic Psychology

who experience flow state are not likely to put off their learning tasks until later. Messmer (2001) suggested that one of the keys to perform an activity in flow state is to avoid procrastination. The author assumed that flow experience would be associated not only with high self-determined motivation, but also with low procrastination. However, these assumptions were speculative and no researchers have examined the relationship between the extent of procrastination and flow experience. On the basis of previous research findings, I sought to clarify the motivational patterns and flow experiences of academic procrastinators. Specifically, I examined the relationships between students academic procrastination and their motivation and flow experience. I also was interested in exploring whether the presumed relationships between procrastination and flow experiences were caused by the covariance between flow and motivation or whether they were independent of motivational effects. Therefore, I examined whether flow experiences continued to be significantly related to procrastination even when the effects of motivation measures were considered. Method Participants The original participants for this study were 277 college students enrolled at two relatively small universities in South Korea. I found invalid response profiles (i.e., lack of variability, incomplete data) for 15 students, so I dropped their data from the sample analyses. Analyses were based on 262 college students (138 men, 124 women). Students represented a variety of academic majors, and they were enrolled in an educational psychology course. They ranged in age from 18 to 24 years (M age = 20.02, SD = 1.20). The majority of the students (84%) were sophomores; 12% were freshmen, and 4% were seniors. Procedures In the second month of the first semester, I asked students to complete the written questionnaire packets in their regular classrooms. I explained to the students that the purpose of the questionnaire was to gain a better understanding of college students feelings and behaviors related to learning activities. The questionnaire took 20 min to complete. All responses were anonymous and confidential. Measures First, I translated the Procrastination Scale developed by Tuckman (1991) into Korean and administered the instrument to assess students procrastination tendencies. The scale contains 16 items using 4-point Likert-type response format


from very true (4) to not at all true (1). Items on the scale include: I needlessly delay finishing jobs, even when theyre important, I postpone starting in on things I dont like to do, and When I have a deadline, I wait till the last minute. The reliability of the scale (Cronbachs ) was .83 in this sample. I administered the Korean version of the Flow State Scale (Jackson & Marsh, 1996) to assess flow. Because this scale was developed from athletes descriptions of being in flow, I asked students to relate questions to the thoughts and feelings they might have experienced during the learning process. The original version consisted of nine subscales, but I included only the five subscales that attained an acceptable level of reliability. The five subscales were: challengeskill balance (I felt I was competent enough to meet the high demands of the situation); clear goals (I knew clearly what I wanted to do); unambiguous feedback (I had a good idea while I was performing about how well I was doing); concentration on task at hand (My attention was focused entirely on what I was doing); and loss of self-consciousness (I was not concerned with what others may have been thinking of me). Each subscale assessed four items. Students rated each item on a 5-point Likert-type scale in terms of their level of agreement, high agreement (5) or disagreement (1). Cronbachs alpha coefficients for five subscales ranged from .77 to .84 (M = .80). Finally, I translated the Academic Motivation Scale (Vallerand et al., 1993) into Korean and used the instrument to assess students learning motivation. Each item of this scale represents a possible reason for why students go to school. In the present study, I adopted intrinsic motivation, self-determined extrinsic motivation, non-self-determined extrinsic motivation, and amotivation. Examples from each construct include: because I experience pleasure and satisfaction while learning new things (intrinsic motivation); because I think that education will help me better prepare for the career I have chosen (self-determined extrinsic motivation); to get a more prestigious job later on (non-self-determined extrinsic motivation); and I really feel that I am wasting my time at school (amotivation). I gave four possible responses for each of the four subscales, that yielded a 16-item scale. Students rated the items on a 7-point Likert-type scale from very true (7) to not at all true (1). Cronbachs alpha coefficients for each construct ranged from .83 to .93 (M = .86) in this sample. Results The first research question of this study concerned the relationships of students academic procrastination with their motivation and flow experience. Results are presented in Table 1. As expected, procrastination was significantly and positively related to amotivation. I obtained a significant, negative correlation between procrastination and self-determined extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Contrary to my prediction, non-self-determined extrinsic motivation was not significantly associated with procrastination. The results also showed

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TABLE 1. Intercorrelations of Procrastination With Motivation and Flow (N = 262) Motivation NSDEM SDEM Flow Feed

PRO PRO AMO NSDEM SDEM INT Skill Goal Feed Conc Self M SD .28*** .11 .13* .24*** .30*** .41*** .32*** .29*** .49*** 2.78 .52







.39*** .40*** .50*** .28*** .36*** .18** .07 .12* 1.95 .73

.16** .06 .16* .03 .13* .01 .19** 2.10 .61

.36*** .20** .38*** .23*** .07 .06 2.13 .68

.30*** .38*** .21** .11 .04 3.63 .78

.54*** .49*** .39*** .22*** 3.50 .71

.64*** .32*** .08 3.16 .70

.25*** .14* 3.41 .67

.15* 2.67 .77

3.38 .81

Note. PRO = procrastination; AMO = amotivation; NSDEM = non-self-determined extrinsic motivation; SDEM = self-determined extrinsic motivation; INT= intrinsic motivation; Skill = challenge-skill balance; Goal = clear goal; Feed = unambiguous feedback; Conc = concentration on the task at hand; Self = loss of self-consciousness. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.



that procrastination was significantly and negatively correlated with all five of the flow subscales. I conducted a hierarchical multiple regression analysis to investigate the independent and joint contribution of motivation and flow measures to predict the students academic procrastination. There were two purposes in performing this multiple regression analysis. First, I was interested in determining whether flow measures continued to be significantly related to procrastination even when the effects of motivation variables were taken into account. Second, I wanted to identify motivation and flow variables, which were the strongest predictors of procrastination. The results of this analysis are shown in Table 2. In the first step of the hierarchical multiple regression analysis, I entered four motivation measures that accounted for 9% of the variance in students procrastination, F(4, 257) = 6.38, p < .001. Amotivation and intrinsic motivation were significant predictors, and non-self-determined extrinsic motivation and selfdetermined extrinsic motivation were not significant. In the second step of the analysis, I entered the five flow measures. When I added this set to the prediction equation, it accounted for an additional 32% of the variance in procrastination, which constituted a significant increase in the explained variance, F(7, 250) = 19.28, p < .001. I found significant negative effects for loss of self-consciousness, clear goal, and concentration on the taskTABLE 2. Results of the Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Procrastination Variable Motivation amotivation non-self-determined extrinsic motivation self-determined extrinsic motivation intrinsic motivation Flow challengeskill balance clear goal unambiguous feedback concentration on the task loss of self-consciousness F value R2 R 2
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

Step 1

Step 2

.19* .03 .01 .14*

.11 .04 .03 .07 .08 .28*** .06 .14** .44***

6.38*** .09***

19.28*** .41*** .32***


The Journal of Genetic Psychology

at-hand items. Furthermore, after I entered these flow measures into the analysis, motivation measures no longer had a significant unique effect. These results indicated that procrastination was best predicted by students flow experiences rather than by motivation. That is, the students who concentrated on the task at hand and had clear goals with little self-consciousness tended not to procrastinate in their academic work. Discussion In this study, I demonstrated that students who were motivated in a selfdetermined manner (i.e., who engaged in practice for the pleasure and satisfaction associated with the activity or who chose to participate for their own benefit) reported low procrastination tendencies. Conversely, students with high amotivation who had no sense of control over their learning processes reported high procrastination tendencies. These results are consistent with Sencal et al. (1995), in which less autonomous forms of motivation were associated with higher levels of procrastination. Furthermore, the relationship of extrinsic motivation to procrastination varied depending on whether the task was self-determined or non-self-determined. That is, high extrinsic motivation did not elicit procrastinating behaviors if it was self-determined. These results indicated that procrastination was an individual behavioral tendency associated with the lack of self-determination. Few researchers have examined the relationship between procrastination and flow experiences. In the present study, I showed that students procrastination tendencies were negatively related with their flow experiences. The more students procrastinate in doing their academic work, the less likely they are to experience flow state in learning processes. Specifically, students who were out of balance between the perceived skills of themselves and the perceived challenges of a task were likely to procrastinate in their studies. In addition, students who did not have clear goals, did not concentrate on the task at hand and had high self-consciousness showed high procrastination tendencies. These results provide useful strategies for teachers to reduce students procrastination tendencies. That is, teachers should be sensitive to the balance between students skills and the challenges of the task. In addition, teachers need to help students to have clear goals in their work, to concentrate on the task at hand, and to not be excessively self-conscious in learning. Furthermore, in the present study, I found that procrastination was predicted mainly by students flow experiences rather than by motivation. Although amotivation and intrinsic motivation showed significant unique effects on procrastination, motivation did not contribute significantly to the variance in procrastination when the effects caused by flow experience were considered. The results imply that the relationship between procrastination and motivation was caused mainly by the covariance between flow and motivation. At the same time, the results shed light on



the flow, which rarely has been examined by researchers studying procrastination. Therefore, this study contributes to the understanding of procrastination by exploring significant correlations of students procrastinating behaviors. I found that self-consciousness was the strongest and most significant predictor among the five flow subscales. That is, high procrastinators were more likely to be concerned with what others may have been thinking of them, how they were presenting themselves, and about their performance during the learning process. These results are consistent with Covington (1992) and Ferrari, Johnson, and McCown (1995), who found that some people procrastinated as an avoidance technique to protect their self-esteem. If they did poorly, then they could say that it was because they put off studying until the last moment. If they did well despite procrastinating, then others would perceive them as particularly able. By procrastinating, students cloud the causal factors involved in performance, such that in the event of poor performance, one may attribute the low grade to lack of effort rather than to low ability. In line with previous findings, on the basis of this study, I suggest that students who are concerned with others evaluation may try to avoid the situation in which they are to be evaluated by procrastinating their academic tasks. Teachers and educators should provide students with the learning environment in which comparison and competition among students are not prominent. The results of the present study contribute to theory and practice by highlighting the association of procrastination with motivation and flow experience. If the conditions that increase the use of procrastination can be identified, then perhaps these conditions can be changed. Therefore, this study should be of interest to educators and counseling psychologists who, in their work with students, seek to develop effective interventions that reduce task delays and increase personal responsibility for academic performance. However, several limits of this study suggest that researchers should be cautious in drawing definitive conclusions from the results. First, although the present results indicated that motivation and flow are significant predictors of procrastination, the amount of variance accounted for is modest. Another limitation of the present study is that I selected the sample in a nonrandom way, and all of the participants were Koreans. Thus, participants may not be representative of university students in general. In future studies, researchers should consider diverse populations to determine the robustness of the findings.
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Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Nakamura, J. (1989). The dynamics of intrinsic motivation: A study of adolescents. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education (pp. 4571) Vol. 3. San Diego, CA. Academic Press. Deci, E. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum. Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum. Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1991). A motivational approach to self: Integration in personality. In R. Dienstbier (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation: Perspectives on motivation (pp. 237288) Vol. 38. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Ferrari, J., Johnson, J., & McCown, W. (1995). Procrastination and task avoidance: Theory, research, and treatment. New York: Plenum. Graef, R., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & McManama-Gianinno, S. (1983). Measuring intrinsic motivation in everyday life. Leisure Studies, 2, 155168. Haworth, J., & Hill, S. (1992). Work, leisure, and psychological well-being in a sample of young adults. Journal of Community & Applied Psychology, 2, 147160. Jackson, S., & Marsh, H. (1996). Development and validation of a scale to measure optimal experience: The Flow State Scale. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 18, 1735. Kowal, J., & Fortier, M. (1999). Motivational determinants of flow: Contributions from self-determination theory. The Journal of Social Psychology, 139, 355368. Messmer, M. (2001). Becoming a peak performer. Strategic Finance, 82(8), 810. Rothblum, E., Solomon, L., & Murakami, J. (1986). Affective, cognitive, and behavioral differences between high and low procrastinators. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 33, 387394. Sencal, C., Koestner, R., & Vallerand, R. (1995). Self-regulation and academic procrastination. The Journal of Social Psychology, 135, 607619. Solomon, L., & Rothblum, E. (1984). Academic procrastination: Frequency and cognitive behavioral correlates. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31, 503509. Somuncuoglu, Y., & Yildirim, A. (1999). Relationship between achievement goal orientations and use of learning strategies. Journal of Educational Research, 92(5), 267277. Tuckman, B. (1991). The development and concurrent validity of the Procrastination Scale. Educational & Psychological Measurement, 51, 473480. Tuckman, B. (1998). Using tests as an incentive to motivate procrastinators to study. Journal of Experimental Education, 66, 141147. Tuckman, B., & Sexton, T. (1989, April). Effects of relative feedback in overcoming procrastination on academic tasks. Paper given at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, New Orleans, LA. Vallerand, R., & Bissonnette, R. (1992). On the predictive effects of intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivational styles on behavior: A prospective study. Journal of Personality, 60, 599620. Vallerand, R., Pelletier, L., Blais, M., Briere, N., Sencal, C., & Vallieres, E. (1992). The Academic Motivation Scale: A measure of intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivation in education. Education and Psychological Measurement, 52, 10031017. Vallerand, R., Pelletier, L., Blais, M., Briere, N., Sencal, C., & Vallieres, E. (1993). On the assessment of intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivation in education: Evidence on the concurrent and construct validity of the Academic Motivation Scale. Education & Psychological Measurement, 53, 159172. Wesley, J. C. (1994). Effects of ability, high school achievement, and procrastination behavior on college performance. Educational & Psychological Measurement, 54, 404408.

Received December 8, 2004