Do you always finish items on your to-do list in a timely fashion, or do you wait until the last minute? New research shows that the tendency to defer tasks could be inherited, and that the traits of procrastination and impulsivity could be genetically linked.
In the study (subscription required), researchers at University of Colorado Boulder asked 181 identical-twin pairs and 166 fraternal-twin pairs to complete surveys designed to measure individuals' propensity to act impulsively or procrastinate, as well as their aptitude to set and maintain goals. Pysch Central reports:
They found that procrastination is indeed heritable, just like impulsivity. Not only that, there seems to be a complete genetic overlap between procrastination and impulsivity — that is, there are no genetic influences that are unique to either trait alone.
That finding suggests that, genetically speaking, procrastination is an evolutionary byproduct of impulsivity — one that likely manifests itself more in the modern world than in the world of our ancestors.
In addition, the link between procrastination and impulsivity also overlapped genetically with the ability to manage goals. This finding supports the idea that delaying, making rash decisions, and failing to achieve goals all stem from a shared genetic foundation.
Researchers hope that better understanding the underpinnings of procrastination will be useful in determining how these two traits relate to higher cognitive abilities.
Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about willpower and tools to reach our goals, The science of willpower and How your perceptions about willpower can affect behavior, goal achievement
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