Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Behavior Analysis and Therapy

First Advisor

Hurtado-Parrado, Camilo


Academic procrastination is a highly prevalent issue among students of all education levels and is associated with negative outcomes across many domains (e.g., grades, and physical and mental health, Zentall, 2021). Currently, the majority of research on academic procrastination and its impact on educational outcomes implements questionnaires or self-reports, which are not cohesive with a behavior-analytic approach to procrastination. This situation limits a behavioral understanding of procrastination, and thus the development of effective related interventions. The present study aimed to contribute to this gap by testing the relationship between performance in a systematic replication of the academic discounting task (ADT) designed by Olsen et al. (2018) and three temporally-based measures of academic procrastination, which were collected via the students’ course progress in their Learning Management System platforms (D2L): (a) latency to turn assignments in hours (LTA; average time in hours that elapsed between when the assignments were made available by the instructor and the student turned them in), (b) latency of starting to work on assignments in hours (LWA; average time in hours it takes a student to start working on assignments after the instructor has made them available), and (c) time-to-deadline of submitting assignments in hours (TTD; average time in hours between the time assignments were due and when they were submitted). An association between TTD and ADT k values (a measure of rate of discounting), as well as an association between the three behavioral measures was found. Also, a significant difference in ADT k values between students who reported being employed versus unemployed students was observed. Lastly, a positive association between TTD and ADT k values, and a negative association between TTD and ADT AUC values was found; namely, high rates of discounting during the ADT predicted less postponement of assignment submission. These findings altogether provide additional support for the validity of the ADT as a measure of hyperbolic discounting of academic outcomes and the relevance of the three behavioral measures of academic procrastination. However, the unexpected finding that participants who submitted their assignments earlier displayed higher rates of academic discounting during the ADT does not support Olsen et al.’s prediction that delayed academic rewards are the key contributor to student procrastination. Alternatively, it seems that more research is needed to explore the role of aversive factors in procrastination (e.g., effort required to complete the assignment and/or difficulty of the assignment or probability that the hypothetical assignment would produce the related reinforcers, such as a good grade).




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