Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Mountjoy

Third Advisor

Dr. Barbara Harris


This study examined the problem of procrastination or the failure to complete tasks. Five similar rules were presented to five, four-year-old children, using a multielement design. The rules described contingencies varying in the specification of delays in the delivery of consequences and deadlines. In addition, a general statement of disapproval of procrastination was presented one time, in addition to a rule specifying a delayed consequence with no deadline, to determine its effect on an established pattern of procrastination. The results showed (a) rules specifying delayed consequences (indirect-acting contingencies) with no deadlines did not reliably control behavior, (b) rules specifying immediate consequences (direct-acting contingencies) with deadlines exerted reliable control, (c) rules specifying delayed consequence (indirect-acting contingency) with a deadline exerted less reliable control, and finally (d) a statement condemning procrastination added to a rule specifying an immediate consequence with a deadline briefly altered an established pattern of procrastination for four out of five children. The results suggest that the specification of a deadline in rules decreases procrastination. However, for many young children this control by rules specifying deadlines is only reliable when rules also specify immediate consequences (direct-acting contingencies).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons