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This editorial appeared in The Virginian-Pilot
This piece should have run last week.
But putting it off seemed easier.
Such rationalization for procrastination may sound lame, but ask the scientists: It's in our DNA.
Hold on. Need some coffee.
Nearly everyone puts off tasks. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder wanted to assess why that tendency plagues some more than others, and why procrastinators also make hasty, irrational decisions.
The study examined nearly 350 pairs of identical and fraternal twins. (Quick break here to look up what causes identical twins vs. fraternal. Identical come from one fertilized egg that splits. Fraternal from two fertilized eggs. Good to know.)
Back to the research. Twins served as research subjects because they provide an effective means to study how traits are correlated. Identical twins share 100 percent of their DNA (one, divided egg); fraternal twins share an average of about 50 percent. That means identical twins are more likely to exhibit similar traits. So scientists study them and compare to fraternal twins to "figure out the relative importance of genetic and environmental influences on particular behaviors, like procrastination and impulsivity," according to the Association for Psychological Science.
Scientists have long theorized an evolutionary basis for impulsivity: Quick decisions helped our ancestors survive in a man-eat-mammoth world. Turns out, procrastination appears to be an evolutionary by-product of impulsivity. In modern times, that means it's easy to divert our attention from long-term goals to chatting in the hallway for just a minute or two before warming up lunch.
Further, procrastination and impulsivity share genetic space with the ability to manage goals. So highly impulsive folks also struggle to achieve goals. Maybe because of all the procrastination.
(Just did some quick shopping at a mall sale! Bought these pink zebra-striped platform feathered shoes. Yikes! Should have checked the bank account first.)
Further, impulsivity and procrastination are inheritable.
Mom and Dad probably meant to talk to us about that.