Mentor 1

Larry Burns


Perfectionism is defined as putting in more work for a task than is necessary to complete it, while procrastination concerns the purposeful delay of a task altogether. They are both often labelled as unwelcome aspects of personality, but can these two seemingly opposite traits work together and exist in the same reality? This study examined the nuances of this relationship through conscientiousness, fear of negative evaluation, and temporal awareness in a sample of over 200 college students. For a point of reference, these constructs were characterized through the literary model of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Perfectionism was represented by Jekyll and procrastination was represented by Hyde. This piece of literature examines the duality of human nature through the account of an individual wrestling with his alter-ego. This idea was transferred to the current study by examining whether procrastination exists in an adaptive form. Research on perfectionism has determined that it exists in two types, positive and negative. Terry-Short et al. (1995) conducted a study in which they determined that a positive version of perfectionism exists in highly motivated individuals such as athletes. Procrastination on the other hand currently exists in a unidimensional model and is labeled as only coming in a negative form. Its negative reputation stems from its association with fear of failure and task aversion in academic settings (Ferrari, Keane, Wolf, & Beck, 1989). Previous research has made further connections with impulsivity. Positive procrastinators are likely the type of people who work well under pressure and have a high sense of agency. Negative procrastinators are more likely to quit difficult or anxiety-inducing tasks while positive procrastinators work much better under pressure (Chu & Choi, 2005).

In the present study, this claim was examined through its relationship with temporal orientation, primarily through the Zimbardo Time Theory. Following this measure, temporal awareness is constructed through responses to past, present, and future events. People that are present-oriented seek quick pleasure with little concern for the future coupled with a low awareness of surrounding time (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). Other measures used to validate the following claims were boredom proneness and self-regulation. The hypotheses were that perfectionism and procrastination were connected by conscientiousness, temporal awareness, and fear of negative evaluation. Conscientiousness should have a relationship with positive procrastination, fear of negative evaluation should be seen in the negative versions of each trait, and positive temporal orientation should have an inverse relationship with procrastination. Also, the existence of positive procrastination would be validated through a positive correlation with conscientiousness and temporal awareness.

Results minimally supported preliminary hypotheses as they were unable to validate positive procrastination using conscientiousness in the same way as perfectionism. On measures of temporal awareness, slight differences could be observed between arousal and avoidant procrastinators on measures of present and past orientation. Arousal procrastinators also tended to show higher levels of internal stimulation on the boredom scale. According to these results it appears as though arousal procrastination is more adaptable than avoidance, but not necessarily beneficial. Motivation will likely be the most important variable in terms of making a connection among the various characteristics and should be the focus for future research. If measurements of time are strengthened this research may help take the focus away from validating a positive type of procrastination in the field and shed new light on the importance of temporal awareness in evaluating the behaviors associated with perfectionism and procrastination.

*This scholar and faculty mentor have requested that only an abstract be published.