College Papers

Rethinking Procrastination, Chu & Choi

Before today, the last time I opened this file was 2014 – so this is at least four years old. Unfortunately, I only listed my University on the title page and not the class so I have no idea what this was for. Such is life.

Some psychology class, I would guess.

Given my tendency to procrastinate, though, I’m willing to bet I chose the topic myself.

A Review of “Rethinking Procrastination” by Chu & Choi

In 2005 The Journal of Social Psychology published an article titled “Rethinking Procrastination: Positive Effects of “Active” Procrastination Behavior on Attitudes and Performance” by Angela Hsin Chun Chu and Jim Nam Choi, affiliated with Columbia and McGill Universities respectively. They disagreed with the commonly held notion that procrastination could only serve as a character flaw that resulted in an inability to work productively and instead identified two kinds of procrastinators: active and passive. They believed that while passive procrastinators generally fit the negative stereotype that many held of procrastinators, active procrastinators shared many traits with non-procrastinators which could then mean that not all procrastination was negative as is the traditional view. They believe that previous research on the topic is flawed in that procrastinators are only ever compared to non-procrastinators, and they wish to correct that flaw in this study by comparing active procrastinators to passive procrastinators as well as to non-procrastinators.

In response to traditional views on procrastination and their own belief that there are two types of procrastinators, Chu & Choi (2005) identified five hypotheses they wished to tackle over the course of their research. Their first hypothesis stated that both active procrastinators and non-procrastinators would report the better use of their time as well as a greater control over time than passive procrastinators (p. 248). Their second hypothesis is that both non-procrastinators and active procrastinators would report stronger self-efficacy beliefs than passive procrastinators (p. 249). Their third hypothesis, involving motivation, was split into two parts. The first part proposed that both non-procrastinators and active procrastinators would have higher levels of extrinsic motivation than passive procrastinators while the second part non-procrastinators would report higher levels of intrinsic motivation than either type of procrastinator (p. 249). The fourth hypothesis tackled coping mechanisms, alleging that non-procrastinators and active procrastinators both use task-oriented coping strategies while passive procrastinators would utilize emotion- or -avoidance-oriented coping strategies in a stressful situation (p. 250). Their fifth and final hypothesis suggested that both non and active procrastinators experience lower stress and depression levels, greater life satisfaction and higher GPAs than passive procrastinators (p. 251). The overall theme of these hypotheses is that non and active procrastinators have more in common than previous research suggests and that active procrastination is not negative while passive procrastination falls in line with previous research and definitions of procrastination. For each hypothesis, the researchers cited a number of previously conducted research, most of which was limited to contrasting procrastinators in general with non-procrastinators, and focused on the negative aspects of procrastination. There was little research cited that seemed to support their claims of positive procrastination because their separation of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ procrastination seems to be a new distinction of their own design.

To measure the study’s variables, Chu & Choi (2005) employed ex post facto study design surveying 230 undergraduate students from several Canadian universities. The survey utilized a 7- point Likert-type scale to measure 11 variables (p. 252). These variables were: academic procrastination, active procrastination, patterns of time use, perception of time control, self-efficacy belief, motivational orientation, stress-coping strategy, stress, depression, life satisfaction, and academic performance (p. 252-253). The first seven variables (academic procrastination, active procrastination, patterns of time use, perception of time control, self-efficacy belief, motivational orientation, and stress-coping strategy) could be considered independent variables because they have an effect the last four variables (stress, depression, life satisfaction, and academic performance) while not being affected by them.

The authors relied on the participating students to truthfully self-report their personal habits and feelings in regard to each of the variables. As is an issue for all self-report surveys, this raises the risk of biases on the part of both the survey creator and the survey taker which may influence the results. Also, because of the similarities between their participants (university students of a similar age attending school in Canada), the results cannot be generalized (p. 261). Chun & Choi (2005) are aware of such limitations, though, and clearly, state them in the discussion portion of their article (p. 261). The survey would have to be replicated with a variety of participants before being able to determine if the results are applicable on a broader scale. For a number of measures, they borrowed or adopted items from already existing measures, as well as inventing their own. They used the academic and active procrastination scales in order to separate their participants into the three groups that they were attempting to compare: non-procrastinators, active procrastinators and passive procrastinators. They then took the results of the other scales to compare the groups using a one-way analysis of variance. The results from each of the scales supported all five of their hypotheses, and successfully demonstrated the existence of a positive type of procrastination. They also did a post hoc regression analysis because they were dealing with a new type of procrastination without previous research to compare their current results (Chu & Choi, 2005, p. 256).

The study did well demonstrating that there could be positive forms of procrastination, however being that theirs was an early attempt comparing active procrastinators to passive and non-procrastinators I feel the results are pretty limited and are unable to definitively show the positive aspects of procrastination. The subject would require further research, perhaps seeing if similar results can be obtained from procrastinators outside of an academic setting.


Chu, A. H. C., & Choi, J. N. (2005). Rethinking procrastination: Positive effects of “active” procrastination behavior on attitudes and performance. Journal of Social Psychology, 145, 245-264.

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