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Public speaking procrastination as a correlate ofpublic speaking communication apprehension andselfperceived public speaking competenceRalph R. Behnke a & Chris R. Sawyer ba Professor of Speech Communication , Texas Christian University , Fort Worth, Texasb Assistant Professor of Speech Communication , Texas Christian University , Fort Worth,TexasPublished online: 06 Jun 2009.
To cite this article: Ralph R. Behnke & Chris R. Sawyer (1999) Public speaking procrastination as a correlate of publicspeaking communication apprehension and selfperceived public speaking competence, Communication Research Reports,16:1, 40-47, DOI: 10.1080/08824099909388699
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08824099909388699
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Public Speaking Procrastination as a Correlate of Public SpeakingCommunication Apprehension and Self-Perceived Public Speaking
Ralph R. BehnkeTexas Christian University
Chris R. SawyerTexas Christian University
In the present study, the relationship between public speaking pro-crastination and communication apprehension, and the relationshipbetween public speaking procrastination and self-perceived publicspeaking competence were investigated. A significant, positive corre-lation was found between public speaking procrastination and com-munication apprehension. A significant, negative correlation was foundbetween public speaking procrastination and self-perceived publicspeaking competence. The implications of public speaking procrasti-nation for students and their instructors are discussed along with "anti-procrastination " pedagogical strategies.
Researchers in communication apprehension and speech anxiety have long distin-guished between state and trait measures of these variables (Beatty & Behnke, 1980;Spielberger, 1966). Subjects' levels of trait communication anxiety commonly have beenfound to be correlated, at low-to-moderate levels, with performance anxiety during publicspeaking (Behnke & Beatty, 1981; Behnke, Carlile & Lamb, 1974). Consequently, trait mea-sures of apprehension and anxiety administered early in a course are capable of predictingat least some of the anxiety that speakers will report experiencing during their performances.As a result, special instructional methods and interventions can be used for speakers forwhom it is anticipated that unusually high levels of anxiety will be experienced whilespeaking (Robinson, 1997).
Ralph R. Behnke (Ph.D., University of Kansas) is Professor of Speech Communication at TexasChristian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Chris R. Sawyer (Ph.D., University of North Texas) isAssistant Professor of Speech Communication at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
COMMUNICATION RESEARCH REPORTS, Volume 16, Number 1, pages 40-47
Commnication Apprehension and Procrastination - Page 41
Trait anxiety levels combine with situational factors, such as size and composition ofthe audience (Neer, Hudson, & Warren, 1982), presence of a television camera (Bush, Bittner,& Brooks, 1972), and whether or not the assigned speech will be graded (Beatty, 1988; Beatty& Friedland, 1990), thereby further increasing speaker discomfort during speech perfor-mance. As a result, novice speakers will often seek to escape such threatening speakingsituations by inventing excuses for not participating or by becoming distracted by morepleasant and hence less fear arousing activities (McCroskey, 1984).
The amount of time a speaker has to prepare and practice a presentation has also beenfound to be related to speech anxiety (Menzel & Carrell, 1994). Sometimes the available timefor preparation and practice is artificially curtailed because the speaker procrastinates ex-cessively until the available time for working on the speech is no longer sufficient for thetask.
Avoidance of communication tasks, including preparation and rehearsal of speeches,has been linked to anticipatory anxiety (Beatty, 1987; McCroskey, 1982). Likewise, educa-tors often speculate that procrastination, such as delaying preparation for a speaking as-signment, contributes to low performance evaluations and high levels of public speakinganxiety. Although some evidence for this pedagogical assumption has been reported (Daly,Vangelisti, Neel, & Cavanaugh, 1989; Menzel, & Carrell, 1994), the underlying relationshipbetween communication anxiety and procrastination has not been fully explained. Thepurpose of the current study is twofold: to examine the relationship between communicationapprehension and procrastination and the relationship between procrastination and self-perceived communication competence in public speaking.
PROCRASTINATION AND PUBLIC SPEAKINGTrait anxiety responses are produced by a process of Pavlovian conditioning in which a
neutral stimulus, such as having a conversation or giving a speech, becomes associated withpunishment (Rolls, 1990). While negative reinforcement is primarily used by parents andteachers to suppress the errant social behaviors of children (Strongman, 1987), the anxiety itproduces becomes deeply rooted in the affective memory of humans (Sawyer & Behnke,1997). Since individuals do not receive the same level of punishment in each type of speak-ing situation, communication apprehension develops as a dynamic trait (Behnke & Sawyer,1998), that is, it varies in amplitude given the specificity with which negative reinforcementis interposed in a particular class of situations. Therefore, negative feelings about perfor-mance, such as those associated with receiving a low grade on a speech, may intensify thespeaker's level of communication apprehension for that situation. As a result, individualswill formulate routine coping strategies for managing specific anxiety-arousing situations.
Gray (1982) identified two distinct anxiety coping strategies. When confronted by athreatening or novel stimulus, subjects often suppress motor responses while carefully moni-toring the situation in order to respond appropriately if signs of imminent danger develop.This phenomenon, called behavior inhibition, has been observed in classroom public speak-ing situations (Freeman, Sawyer, & Behnke, 1997). However, operating along side Gray's(1982) behavior inhibition construct is a more interactive strategy in which one either takesdecisive steps to engage the threat or actively avoids confronting it. Whereas behavior inhi-bition occurs during a stressful situation, behavior activation is often initiated well beforeactual contact. Whether the impending threat is avoidable or inevitable largely determinesthe extent to which one's coping strategy is effective.
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Examples of active avoidance are reflected in the speech preparation procedures ofanxious students. Daly, Vangelisti, Neel, and Cavanaugh (1989) found that anxious speak-ers often waste valuable preparation time complaining about the assignment or employingdilatory tactics such as selecting unfamiliar topics that take longer to prepare. Similarly,Ayres (1992) reports that students with high levels of communication apprehension havemore negative thoughts about the impending communication event and fewer task-relevantones. As a result, high communication apprehensives require substantially more prepara-tion time than their less anxious counterparts (Ayres & Robideaux-Maxwell, 1989).
While reporting that students often fail to prepare ad