Genetic relations among procrastination, impulsivity, and goal-management ability: implications for the evolutionary origin of procrastination

Psychol Sci. 2014 Jun;25(6):1178-88. doi: 10.1177/0956797614526260. Epub 2014 Apr 4.


Previous research has revealed a moderate and positive correlation between procrastination and impulsivity. However, little is known about why these two constructs are related. In the present study, we used behavior-genetics methodology to test three predictions derived from an evolutionary account that postulates that procrastination arose as a by-product of impulsivity: (a) Procrastination is heritable, (b) the two traits share considerable genetic variation, and (c) goal-management ability is an important component of this shared variation. These predictions were confirmed. First, both procrastination and impulsivity were moderately heritable (46% and 49%, respectively). Second, although the two traits were separable at the phenotypic level (r = .65), they were not separable at the genetic level (r genetic = 1.0). Finally, variation in goal-management ability accounted for much of this shared genetic variation. These results suggest that procrastination and impulsivity are linked primarily through genetic influences on the ability to use high-priority goals to effectively regulate actions.

Keywords: goal management; heritability; impulsivity; individual differences; procrastination; self-control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Individuality
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Motivation / genetics*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Phenotype
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Twins / genetics*
  • Twins / psychology*
  • Young Adult