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Put Aside Procrastination: Positive Emotional Outcomes from Self-Forgiveness for Delays.

Many college students admit to not finishing their educational assignments within expected time frames (Beswick, Rothblum, & Mann, 1988; Pychyl, Morin, & Salmon, 2001), which results in below average scores and grade expectations (Ferrari, 2004). Empirical evidence suggests engaging in academic procrastination may be an underlying factor resulting in underachievement (Howell & Buro, 2009; Lubbers, Van der Werf, Kuyper, & Hendriks, 2010). Consequently, some students may drop out due to sub optimal, academic performance results (Kim & Seo, 2015). The failure to achieve one's goal, as is often the case with procrastination, may be conceptualized as a transgression against the self. Academic procrastination then may be viewed as a form of self-sabotage, as procrastinators irrationally avoid intended and often necessary action (Ferrari, 2010; Uzun Ozer, Demir& Ferrari, 2013; Wohl, Pychyl & Bennett, 2010) yielding negative feelings such as guilt, stress, or anxiety (Blunt & Pychyl, 2005; Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

Learning to deal with procrastination may require a motivational change from avoidance to approach strategies (Ferrari, 2010). When one considers procrastination as a self-transgression, forgiveness of the self may be viewed as the first step towards eliciting adaptive motivational change. Thus, self-forgiveness may reduce negative affect while increasing positive feelings. Wohl and colleagues (2010) determined a reduction in negative affect occurred via self-forgiveness; however, positive affect was not analyzed. Instead, the authors hypothesized that because self-forgiveness leads to a positive attitudinal shift towards the self, positive affect may be increased; however, this was merely speculative, not supported with empirical data. Therefore, in the present study forgiveness was conceptualized as a mediator between procrastination and positive affect. By forgiving oneself, a person may overcome negative feelings, as forgiveness involves the reduction of negative feelings and the re-establishment of positive affect toward oneself. We posited that forgiveness may help students regain positive self-perceptions (which may indirectly help improve their academic performances).

Procrastination, Self-Forgiveness, Positive Emotions

Procrastination, a tendency to postpone what is necessary to reach one's goal (Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, 1995), is commonly experienced among university students. People commonly engage in procrastination to make their lives more pleasant; however, such strategic delays rarely yield positive outcomes and nearly always add stress, disorganization, and failure (Clayton, 2000; Essau & Uzun, 2017). Some researchers conceptualize procrastination as a means to regulate negative emotions in the short term (Tice & Baumeister, 1997). In support, people who procrastinate don't report unhappy feelings since they tend to avoid undesirable tasks and engage in relatively enjoyable and pleasant activities (Konig & Kleinmann, 2004; Pychyl et al., 2000). However, in the long-term, procrastination is associated with long-term stress and illness (Tice & Baumeister, 1997). Ferrari and Tice (2000) described procrastination as a form of self-handicapping behavior employed in order to protect the threatened self-esteem (Ferrari, 2010). Wohl and colleagues (2010) extended this work, noting that procrastination was a form of self-harming behavior, due to the person's irrationality at avoiding intended and often necessary tasks. Procrastination appears to be significantly related to lower levels of life satisfaction (Uzun Ozer & Sackes, 2011), by eliciting negative feelings (Chu & Choi, 2005) such as shame and guilt about oneself (Fee & Tangney, 2000). This is evidenced in student behavior, particularly within the university population, as students frequently seek help from counselors and may show strong concern with regard to how badly this habit makes them feel (Schowuenburg, Lay, Pychyl, & Ferrari, 2004). Thus, replacing avoidance motivation with approach motivation by forgiving oneself seems a viable first step in changing procrastination behavior.

Wohl and colleagues (2010) found that self-forgiveness for procrastination decreased negative affect. For this to be achieved, consciously one may need to overcome feelings of self-resentment while dealing with negative feelings, reaching a level of internal acceptance, and achieving feelings of positive affect (Hall & Fincham, 2005). In this context, self-forgiveness may be conceptualized as a mediator for changes in motivation, which may, in turn prompt persons to avoid stimuli connected with transgression and self-punishment, and increase the desire to act benevolently towards themselves. Thus, self-forgiveness should effectively involve replacing an avoidance motivation with an approach motivation.

Self-forgiveness is defined as a "set of motivational changes whereby one becomes decreasingly motivated to avoid stimuli associated with the offence, decreasingly motivated to retaliate against the self (for example: punish the self, engage in self-destructive behaviors), and increasingly motivated to act benevolently toward the self" (Hall & Fincham, 2005, p. 116). It is believed to be an individual's general propensity to forgive the self for failures (Hall & Fincham, 2005), and necessary to change negative thoughts about the self. Self-forgiveness allows one to focus on maladaptive behaviors in a non-judgmental way rather than transgressing. Hall and Fincham posited three steps toward self-forgiveness: (1) one must acknowledge that a transgression occurred and accept responsibility; (2) one needs feelings of regret and guilt; and (3) one overcomes negative feelings, making a motivational change towards self-acceptance, leaving behind self-blame and punishment.

Self-forgiveness may play an important role in diminishing guilt and enhancing self-acceptance (Ingersoll-Dayton & Krause, 2005). Wohl and colleagues (2010) argued that self-forgiveness for procrastination behavior may facilitate mood repair, enabling one to overcome the impact of associated negative affect, thereby fostering positive behavioral change.

Thus, self-forgiveness for procrastination may be an essential step, effectively motivating behavioral change. Applied researchers agree that self-forgiveness is a positive coping strategy that primarily helps the person through the reorientation of emotion, thoughts and/or actions (Wade & Worthington, 2005), while being aware of the meaning of faults and taking responsibility for past mistakes. Apart from reconciliation (Freedman, 1998), developing self-forgiveness occurs with self-reflection, lessons learned from mistakes (Ingerson-Dayton & Krause, 2005), and self-acceptance (Bauer et al., 1992). In relation to procrastination, Wohl and colleagues (2010) determined that self-forgiveness reduced guilty feelings associated with task failure. With this reduction of negative affect, people reduced procrastinating for the next task. In fact, a recent meta-analysis by Sirois (2014) determined that procrastination was linked with reduced levels of self-compassion, suggesting both self-kindness and self-acceptance may be challenging for chronic procrastinators, impacting positive affect. Although self-forgiveness may be a crucial first step, it is imperative to note that it is not enough to change future behavior, and must be reinforced with the development of adaptive self-regulatory strategies that reduce or ultimately eliminate the procrastination behavior. At the early stages, feedback is adaptive, as it provides intrinsic motivation to self-forgive. Internally, it can come from self-reflection that generates an action plan for implementing lessons learned. In addition, external feedback from counselors, parents and peers may play a paramount role, particularly in a collectivist culture, such as Turkey, which may provide the external reinforcement needed to self-forgive by providing a positive social support network that can influence behavioral change.

Procrastination may provide short-term positive affect, but in the long-term it is predominantly associated with negative affective outcomes (see Ferrari, 2010). Correlational research has determined that low scores of self-forgiveness were strongly linked with anger, anxiety, and guilt (Konstam, Chernoff & Deveney, 2001). Furthermore, researchers (e.g., McCullough, Pergament & Therosen, 2000) have found that forgiveness against a transgression (e.g., procrastination) and positive attributions towards the experience are correlated. Self-forgiveness, then, maybe seen as a coping strategy used to deal with the negative affect associated with procrastination, thereby enhancing performance for future tasks. However, there has been limited research into the role of self-forgiveness as a mediator; we decided further investigation on this relationship was warranted.

From an assessment standpoint, advanced statistical techniques (such as structure equation modeling) examine all components of a proposed model simultaneously, investigating both direct and indirect effects among variables within the model (Schumacker & Lomax, 2010). We used this approach because it is advantageous over the Wohl and colleagues (2010) study. It creates a more detailed picture, allowing in-depth inferences to be drawn from the data set on mediator and moderator effects (Frazer, Tix, & Barron, 2004).

An advanced statistical model delineating the underlying mechanisms through which a procrastinator needs to forgive oneself to increase positive affect is lacking. The current study is novel as it extends the research by Wohl and colleagues (2010) looking at positive affect, using structural equation modeling, and a non-English speaking population of students. Currently, the majority of procrastination research has been conducted in Western cultural settings. It is imperative to investigate procrastination behavior in varying cultural contexts, as research shows that the motivation, underlying dynamics and affect behavior may manifest differently in individualistic and collectivistic cultures (Lay, 1995). Thus, cultural beliefs and values may lead to varying procrastination beliefs relating to conceptualization of the self, responsibility to others and models of ability (Klassen et al., 2010).

Structure equation modeling was used to understand the mediation role of self-forgiveness on the relationship between procrastination and positive affect. Procrastination was expected to be related to self-forgiveness and positive affect. Also, self-forgiveness, as a mediator, was expected to be positively associated with positive affect. A hypothesized model investigated the structural relationships among variables.



Data were obtained from Turkish students enrolled in university psychology classes at a major state-funded urban institution. A total of 317 students (198 women, 119 men: M age = 21.95 years old; SD = 1.63) participated in this study. Participants were at different grade levels, namely: 34 first year students (27 female, 13 male), 90 sophomores (67 female, 23 male), 92 juniors (55 female, 37 male), and 97 seniors (50 female, 47 male).

Psychometric Instruments

All participants completed a questionnaire package which included a demographic form, the Tuckman Procrastination Scale, the Heartland Forgiveness Scale and the Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale.

The Tuckman Procrastination Scale (TPS; Tuckman, 1991) was used to assess students' procrastination tendencies. TPS is a unidimensional scale consisting of 16 items on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = that's me for sure, 4 = that's not me for sure). Sample items include "I needlessly delay finishing jobs, even when they are important" and "I manage to find an excuse for not doing something." Scores range from 16 to 64 with higher scores reflecting a higher level of procrastination. Numerous studies have demonstrated its reliability (a = 0.89; Tuckman, 2007) and validity (r = -0.47 with general self-efficacy; and r = -0.54 with a behavioral measure of homework completion: Tuckman, 1991). In a Turkish adaptation of the scale, Uzun Ozer, Sackes and Tuckman (2013) reported an internal consistency score of .90 on the TPS; and scores were correlated with self-efficacy (r = .22) and self-esteem (r = .23). With the present sample, coefficient alpha was .86.

The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS, Thompson et al., 2005) is used as an 18-item self-report measure of dispositional forgiveness, consisting of three subscales: forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others, and forgiveness of the situation. In the current study only the forgiveness of self subscale (6 items) was used. Participants were asked how they typically respond to a transgression along a 7-point rating scale, (1 = almost always false for me; 7 = almost always true for me). A sample item is "Although I feel bad at first when I mess up, over time I can give myself some slack." Higher scores indicated a higher level of forgiveness of self. Thomson et al. (2005) reported internal consistency to be .75 and test-retest reliability to be .72 of the forgiveness of self-subscale. Evidence for the convergent validity of this scale was obtained from the relationship with the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (Subkoviak et al., 1995). In a Turkish adaptation study, Bugay, Demir, and Delevi (2012) found evidence regarding the scale's reliability and validity (a = .81; r = .21 with satisfaction with life and r = -.35 with ruminative response). The internal consistency of this scale for the present sample was .76.

Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS; Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988) is a 5-point (1 = never; 5 = always) self-report Likert scale, including 10 positive and 10 negative emotive items. They reported a Cronbach's alpha coefficient of .88. For the present study, only the10-item, positive affect subscale was utilized. In a Turkish adaptation study of PANAS, Gencoz (2000) reported an internal consistency of the positive affect subscale of .83. With the present sample, coefficient alpha was .84.


A survey package containing a demographic questionnaire, a brief explanation of the study, and the psychometric scales (in counterbalanced order) were administered to participants prior to the completion of their final exams in their psychology classes. After obtaining permission from the Ethical Committee and the instructor of each class, volunteer students were asked to respond to the scales. The data were collected in the classroom settings from approximately 40 students per class. It took participants approximately 20 minutes to complete the questionnaire package.


Latent Variables

To test the models, observed indicators of the latent variables were used. The correlations, means and the standard deviations of the observed indicators are presented in Tables 1 and 2. The observed indicators of the latent variables were obtained from the Tuckman Procrastination Scale, Heartland Forgiveness Scale, and Positive and Negative Affect Scale.

The observed indicators for the latent variables of procrastination, forgiveness, and positive affect were parceled as recommended by Russell, Kahn, Spoth, and Altmaier (1998). Three parcels derived from exploratory factor analyses (Little, Cunningham, Shahar, & Widaman, 2002) were created for each of the latent variables separately.

Measurement Model

The measurement model examined the fit of the 9 observed variables to the three latent constructs; namely, procrastination, self-forgiveness, and positive affect. Results revealed the model was a good fit to the data, scaled [chi square] (24, N = 317) = 40.1, p< .001. [chi square]/df = 40.1/24 = 1.66; CFI = .96, SRMR = .042, RMSEA = .046 (90 % confidence interval [CI] = 0.018 to 0.070). All of the observed variables significantly loaded on their respective latent variables. Therefore, the latent variables appear to have been adequately measured by their respective indicators.

Structural Model

The structural model used to test the hypothesis (Figurei) showed a good fit to the data, scaled [chi square] (25, N = 317) = 40.22, p < .00, [chi square]/df = 40.22/25 = 1.61, CFI = .98, IFI = 98, SRMR = .042, RMSEA = .44, (90 % confidence interval [CI] = 0.015 to 0.068).Accordingly, self-forgiveness mediated the relationship between procrastination and positive affect. Procrastination and self-forgiveness predicted positive affect, where 16 % of the variance in positive affect was accounted for by the model.

Significant levels of indirect effects for the meditational model were tested by following the bootstraps procedure recommended by Shrout and Bolger (2002). Analysis showed that indirect effects were normally distributed. The indirect effects specified in the hypotheses were estimated via bootstrapping (set at 2000), and bias corrected bootstrap (BC); thus, 95% confidence intervals were requested. The bootstrap values provided mediated paths from self-regulation through self-esteem to procrastination ([beta] = .29, p < .01) at a significant level. Results revealed that self-forgiveness partially mediated the relationship between procrastination and positive affect.


The aim of this study was to provide a better understanding of the link between procrastination and positive affect by examining the role of self-forgiveness as a mediator of this relationship. Findings provided statistical support to the view proposed by Wohl and colleagues (2010) that self-forgiveness is associated with a reduction of avoidance, suggesting that self-forgiveness in relation to procrastination, was associated with less procrastination and more positive emotions. In a related vein, the findings of the current study demonstrated that self-forgiveness partially mediates the relationship between procrastination and positive affect. Enright and the Human Development Study Group (1996) defined forgiveness as the absence of negative affect towards the offender and the presence of positive effect towards the same offender. According to this definition, the process of recovery from an intrapersonal transgression involves a change in the emotions from negative to positive (McCullough, Pergament, & Therosen, 2000). In this respect, self-forgiveness involves facing the fact that one is wrong, while leaving negative thoughts and feelings directed at the self and replacing them with positive thoughts, concerns and love (Wohl, Deshea, & Wahkinney, 2008) which may be essential to psychological wellbeing (Woodyatt & Wetzel, 2013).

In the context of this study, procrastination was considered to be a transgression, harmful to the self. Self-forgiveness may be an attempt to change negative thoughts about the self to more positive cognitions. In other words, forgiving oneself provides a positive attitudinal shift towards the self when an individual feels guilt or shame after procrastinating (Wohl & Thomson, 2011). In this manner, individuals may decrease negative affect whilst concurrently increasing positive affect. This is a process that allows one to begin the forgiveness process, leading to a reduction in bitterness, shame or anger and the production of positive regard (Wade & Worthington, 2005).

The present data were derived from a group of Turkish students. Hence, cultural issues may also account for these findings. Using structure equation modeling Hofstede (1980) developed a cross-cultural paradigm describing the impact a societies' culture has on the belief systems and values of its members, and how this in turn impacts their behavior. Oyserman, Coon and Kemmelmeier (2002) describe the basic tenet of individualism as an 'individual's independency from one another' ; whereas, the basic tenet of collectivism is that groups bind and mutually obligate their members. According to the Hofstede (2010) framework, Turkey is a collectivistic culture (with an individualism score of 37) which means individuals define their self-image in terms of 'we' rather than 'I'. As such, individuals from collectivistic cultures like Turkey (Goregenli, 1997; Mocan-Aydin, 2000) may emphasize values that serve collectivistic concerns (Karakitapoglu & imamoglu, 2002).In Turkey, according to the Hofsted (2010) model, power distance is unequal (score of 66) which means it is a culture that is dependent and hierarchical, which can be seen in both the institutional, organizational and family setting. Also, perceptions of external control have been shown to be strongly related to academic performance and failure (Hortacsu & Uner, 1993). This may be viewed through the lens of Triandis' (1994) model, which links culture norms to observed social behavior. According to this model behavior is influenced by 3 factors, which include the subjective experience of one's culture in addition to past experiences, and the current situation. Accordingly, negative feeling such as shame and guilt emerging from procrastination may be a reflection of the subjective experience of Turkish cultural values and norms that affect the way people experience moral emotions. Hence, for individuals who are under the effect of external control, it is more likely to feel negative after performing unwanted actions, such as procrastination. In this case, forgiveness may be a healing process since 'collectivists are closely linked and emphasize their connectedness with other members of their group' (Hook, Wothington, & Utsey, 2009).

Yet, cultures are not completely homogenous and can support both autonomy and harmony simultaneously; thus, within-culture differences should be examined more closely via direct measurement in future research moving away from a discrete dichotomy of individualism vs collectivism (Bond & Van de Vijver, 2011); thus, capturing the more detailed nuances of the cultural microcosm under investigation in which the study sample resides. When behavior such as procrastination is being elucidated via cultural paradigms one must recognize it can be best explained at a variety of different levels accounting for both micro- and macro- level differences.

In an earlier study Wohl and colleagues (2010) used three items to measure procrastination ("I put off studying until the last minute", "I delayed preparing for the exam by doing other, less important things instead", and "I began studying much later than I intended to"). In the study, they focused on the relationship between procrastination and negative affect with the mediating role of self-forgiveness. The current study can be seen as an extension of their study. However, in the current research, the authors used a procrastination scale since it was believed that three items may be too limited in determining the underlying mechanism of procrastination. Although this was a strength, further research should expand on this further; rather than investigating time spent studying as a measure of success, the emphasis should be placed on effective use of time studying measuring when students employ proven methods such as, chunking, spaced distribution and method of loci to enhance the storage of material into long term memory, as procrastinators often employ strategies such as cramming, due to time constraints.

In Wohl and colleagues' (2010) study, the interaction analysis showed that as self-forgiveness increased, negative affect decreased ([beta] = .58), it was hypothesized that this may be accompanied by a concurrent increase in positive affect. In support, the current model, which tested the relationship between procrastination and positive affect with the mediation effect of self-forgiveness, was a good fit for the empirical data. Thus, this study may be seen to provide substantial evidence for the role of self-forgiveness in eliciting a mediating influence by inhibiting the negative affect of procrastination. Whilst the present study has provided a solid start towards understanding the procrastination-self forgiveness association, future research investigating the model proposed here are essential to confirm the theoretical importance of the model. These findings suggest that self-forgiveness may foster a shift from avoidance to approach due to enhanced mood repair. This research could be expanded upon further by investigating motivation and determining whether a concurrent change (from avoidance to approach) occurs as self-forgiveness increases, as this was not addressed directly in the current research or the Wohl and colleagues' (2010) study. Recent experimental research supports this notion, as participants in a self-compassion intervention were shown to report greater motivation for positive behavior change to avoid repeating a transgression and were also shown to spend more time studying following initial task failure (Breines & Chen, 2012).

Although the current study had auspicious, preliminary findings, its limitations warrant examination. Firstly, a methodological limitation was that a convenient sample was utilized within this study. This sample was recruited from a student population enrolled in a city university. Therefore, further studies with larger and more demographically diverse populations would no doubt strengthen the findings of the present study. Secondly, research should investigate other factors that may be mediating the procrastination self-forgiveness relationship, such as trait personality characteristics (for ex. neuroticism, perfectionism), students' satisfaction with their grades and their attitude towards the procrastination behavior itself. If, for example, students are satisfied with the grades they receive and feel that the time pressure was advantageous in achieving those results, the procrastination behavior may be less amenable to change.

In conclusion, self-forgiveness is a relatively new topic of academic inquiry; results of the current study demonstrate it may be valuable in illuminating the influencing factors impacting procrastination, and may be a constructive target for intervention by functioning on mood repair and re-orienting motivation from avoidance to approach for future tasks. From a broader perspective, the capability to accept responsibility, learn from mistakes and ultimately forgive the self for transgressions may be a valuable regulatory strategy that promotes adaptive behavioral change while positively impacting emotion regulation, general mental health and one's overall self-concept.


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Bilge Uzun

Bahcesehir University, Istanbul, Turkey

Joseph R. Ferrari

DePaul University

Sara LeBlanc

University of New Caledonia, Vancouver, Canada

Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Bilge Uzun, Bahcesehir University, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Division of Counseling Psychology, Istanbul, Turkey.

Caption: FIGURE 1 Mediated Model. Numbers in Boxes Indicate the Relationship between the Measured Variables & the Latent Variables. Numbers Next to Arrows Indicate Relationships Between Latent Variables
TABLE 1 Means, & SDs of Observed Variables

Variable              Mean   Deviation

A. Procrastination    46.1     10.0
  Parcel 1            3.2       .9
  Parcel 2            3.3       .7
  Parcel 3            3.4       .9
B. Self-forgiveness   26.7      5.1
  Parcel 1            4.7       1.2
  Parcel 2            4.6       1.1
  Parcel 3            3.9       1.0
C. Positive Affect    32.9      7.3
  Parcel 1            3.3       .8
  Parcel 2            3.2       .8
  Parcel 3            3.3       .9

TABLE 2 Intercorrelations of Observed Variables

Variable             A       A1      A2      A3      B       B1

A. Procrastination   --
  Parcel 1           .88 **  --
  Parcel 2           .86 **  .60 **  --
  Parcel 3           .87 **  .62 **  .71 **  --
B. Self-forgiveness  .10     .08     .04     .13 **  --
  Parcel 1           .09     .06     .07     .11     .82 **  --
  Parcel 2           .15 **  .12 *   .07     .22 **  .74 **  .44 **
  Parcel 3           .03     .01     .05     .05     .69 **  .38 **
C. Positive Affect   .29 **  .25 **  .26 **  .25 **  .20 **  .17 **
  Parcel 1           .20 **  .18 **  .19 **  .15 **  .13 *   .11 *
  Parcel 2           .24 **  .19 **  .20 **  .24 **  .15 **  .14 *
  Parcel 3           .29 **  .25 **  .26 **  .23 **  .22 **  .16 **

Variable             B2      B3      C       C1      C2

  Parcel 3           .23 **  --

C. Positive Affect   .18 **  .09     --
  Parcel 1           .12 *   .04     .83 **  --
  Parcel 2           .14 *   .04     .84 **  .59 **  --
  Parcel 3           .19 **  .15 **  .89 **  .61 **  .59 **
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Author:Uzun, Bilge; Ferrari, Joseph R.; LeBlanc, Sara
Publication:North American Journal of Psychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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