Now! Later. No, Right Now! Maybe in a Bit. Why do people Procastinate?

Posted on February 28, 2014

Procrastination and impulsivity are both bad habits. They cause problems in school, at work, in life. But psychologically, they would seem to have little in common. Impulsivity, after all, is all about now - wanting and needing something immediately, urgently -- and not waiting for later. Later is the province of procrastinators, who will happily delay until tomorrow what could - or should - be done today.

Yet these two character traits do coexist, and that has long puzzled psychological scientists. Why would those who intentionally but irrationally put things off, who don't seem pressured by time - why would these same people also tend to make rash decisions, without thought or planning? Procrastination and impulsivity are the odd couple of the human mind.

A team of researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, headed by Daniel Gustavson, decided to explore this riddle. They were interested in knowing why, from an evolutionary point of view, a trait like procrastination would even exist. Impulsivity makes sense, because early humans needed to act quickly to survive. But there was little need for deliberate, long-range planning, and indeed too much delay could be hazardous. So how was procrastination, as a trait, passed on, from generation to generation, if it was so maladaptive?

The Colorado scientists speculate that procrastination may have appeared as a byproduct of the more basic and adaptive trait, impulsivity. In the modern world, long-term goals are far more important than immediate survival needs, yet our impulsive tendencies remain firmly ingrained. We keep getting distracted by immediate temptations, with the result that we fail to attend to other, more meaningful goals. In short, we procrastinate, and not only that, we evolved to be procrastinators.

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Source material from Huffington Post