Understanding the Cognitive and Genetic Underpinnings of Procrastination: Evidence for Shared Genetic Influences With Goal Management and Executive Function Abilities

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Previous research has suggested that individual differences in procrastination are tied to everyday goal-management abilities, but little research has been conducted on specific cognitive abilities that may underlie tendencies for procrastination, such as executive functions (EFs). In this study, we used behavioral genetics methodology to investigate 2 hypotheses about the relationships between procrastination and EF ability: (a) that procrastination is negatively correlated with general EF ability, and (b) that this relationship is due to the genetic components of procrastination that are most related to other everyday goal-management abilities. The results confirmed both of these hypotheses. Procrastination was related to worse general EF ability at both the phenotypic and genetic levels, and this relationship was due to the component of procrastination shared with self-report measures of everyday goal-management failures. These results were observed even after controlling for potential self-report biases stemming from the urge to respond in a socially desirable manner. Together, these findings provide strong evidence for growing theories of procrastination emphasizing the importance of goal-related cognitive abilities and further highlight important genetic influences that underlie procrastination.

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