Do you procrastinate? Blame DNA!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Sometimes, it’s hard to resist the impulse to watch TV when a ton of homework is waiting for you. Pick up that pencil instead of the remote.

We’re all guilty of procrastination, putting off responsibilities like homework or chores until later, rather than getting them done right away. Instead, we give in to our impulses, watching TV, eating a snack, or chatting with friends online. According to scientific research, though, the DNA that tells our cells how to grow may influence our impulsivity and procrastination!

Impulsivity – or acting without thinking about consequences – is something that helped our ancestors survive. If a vicious animal jumped out of the bushes, acting with mindless quick reflexes meant survival, whereas sitting around debating what to do meant becoming lunch! Meanwhile, procrastination – putting off an activity for a later time when it can be done in the present – is typically considered to be a more modern phenomenon. Planning far into the future is something humans only began practicing “recently” in terms of our evolution over thousands and thousands of years. We’re easily distracted as time drags on, and research shows our brains are programmed this way.

Scientists studied 181 pairs of identical twins – siblings who share 100% of the same DNA – and fraternal twins – siblings who share about 50% of their genetic information. The individuals were asked questions that measured their ability to reach goals, their impulsivity levels, and how likely they were to procrastinate. Based on the answers, identical twins shared more similarities in their behaviors than fraternal twins did with their siblings!

Keep in mind, however, that the purpose of this research is not to provide you with an excuse to procrastinate even more. In fact, if your DNA is more likely to procrastinate and give in to impulses, that just means you need to work twice as hard at staying organized, managing your time, and putting effort into developing strong study habits. Fortunately, further research is looking to better understand the basic mechanism behind these unproductive behaviors, to help individuals resist the urge to be a slacker.

Featured image courtesy of hang_in_there on Flickr. Image of TV viewer courtesy of  islandjoe on Flickr.