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posted: 4/14/2014 1:08 PM

Procrastinators can Celebrate! Scientists Say it's in Your Genes

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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

Barrington, IL - If you'd rather put off until tomorrow what could be done today, blame your parents. Researchers have discovered there may be a genetic reason for these tendencies, genetically linking procrastination and impulsivity which suggests they can be inherited.

According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, procrastination and impulsiveness are genetically linked, proposing the two traits stem from similar evolutionary origins.

"Everyone procrastinates at least sometimes, but we wanted to explore why some people procrastinate more than others and why procrastinators seem more likely to make rash actions and act without thinking," study author Daniel Gustavson explains in a news release. "Answering why that's the case would give us some interesting insights into what procrastination is, why it occurs, and how to minimize it."

To answer these questions, the researchers looked at pairs of twins in regard to how much they procrastinate. They then compared the answers of identical twins, who share their entire DNA, with those of the non-identical twins, who share only half their DNA. The analysis found a tendency to procrastinate is indeed inherited and that the procrastinators were also highly impulsive.

The research found that, genetically speaking, procrastination is an evolutionary byproduct of impulsivity – one that likely shows itself more today than in the world of our ancestors.

"Being impulsive was advantageous to our ancestors because it would have helped with everyday survival," says Dr. Brian Waxler a psychologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. "As times have changed and long-term planning has become more important, impulsivity got in the way of us reaching our goals due to more distractions and procrastination was born."

The research also found the connection between procrastination and impulsivity which 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.

"This research is interesting for those who might identify themselves as a procrastinator. It could help identify the reason for procrastination and identify tools to help overcome the tendency for distraction," Dr. Waxler says.

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