Do your genes make you procrastinate?

General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers have added another option to the procrastination list: genetics.
Nearly half of what makes you procrastinate could be put down to genetics. Photo / Thinkstock
Nearly half of what makes you procrastinate could be put down to genetics. Photo / Thinkstock

According to a new paper published in Psychological Science, the traits that lead to both procrastination and impulsivity are "moderately heritable."

For procrastination, that hereditability was measured at 46 per cent; for impulsivity, 49 per cent. In other words, nearly half of what makes you procrastinate and act impulsively might not be your fault.

"The most interesting thing is that genetically they seem to be related, which suggests that they've sort of evolved together," said Daniel Gustavson, lead author on the paper. "We also learned that a lot of what makes people procrastinate and what makes them impulsive might be them specifically forgetting about their goals and not necessarily delaying as much."

To conduct the study, researchers analysed responses to questionnaires from 663 same-sex twins. Respondents were, on average, about 23 years old and were considered representative of the general population in terms of cognitive ability. The questionnaires were designed to measure procrastination, impulsivity and goal-management failures.

While the study shows that there is some degree of overlap between procrastination and impulsivity, the researchers stress that it's hard to identify causation.

Is procrastination an evolutionary byproduct of impulsivity? Or do we act impulsively because we box ourselves into tight corners by procrastinating, and force quick decisions? Those questions still stand.

For now, procrastinators everywhere should take heart in gaining what could be the best excuse yet for their inordinate thumb-twiddling: blaming it on Mum and Dad. But even if the research supports this, it might not go over so well at home.

-Slate

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