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The Science of Procrastination

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Bryce Johnson

on 24 January 2013

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Transcript of The Science of Procrastination

What is Procrastination? Procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.
Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University clarifies "all procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination."
In other words, procrastination is irrational delay.
Example: Not doing dishes during finals week. What I will cover today: What is Procrastination?
A short history of procrastination
Facts
The causes of procrastination
An Experiment
The underlying neuroscience
Solutions
References Vincent T. Foss once said, “One of the greatest labor-saving inventions of today is tomorrow.” A short history of procrastination
For most of human existence, resources were scarce and unpredictable
Conservation of energy was crucial for survival.
Starvation
Environment
Immediate needs, immediate results A short history of procrastination Many Centuries Ago Facts about Procrastination 95 percent of students procrastinate at least occasionally (Ellis and Knaus 1977) and close to 50 percent do so with some consistently (Solomon and Rothblum 1984).

Dr. Ferrari (DePaul University) identifies three basic types of procrastinators:
Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure/success. They would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
Decisional procrastinators, who experience decision paralysis. Bryce Johnson Procrastination Why do we Procrastinate? Hyperbolic discounting: Present has greater value
Salience
Task Aversion: Pleasant in Present
Uncertainty
Fear of Failure The McCrea Experiment The Neuroscience Behind Procrastination The Mesolimbic Pathway is key to motivation Neuroscience, Continued Our Early Ancestors Sources: Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D, Nando Pelusi, Ph.D., Frank Partnoy Sources: Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D, Nando Pelusi, Ph.D., Frank Partnoy The Greeks and Romans generally valued procrastination.
Jesus taught that reconciling with our adversaries should be done immediately (Matthew 5:23-24)
Procrastination is a good thing for French:
Under the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV and his successors, nobility became a leisure class, demonstrated by courtly manners and consumption.
In the 1800s and 1900s, French Marxists, Romantics, and Anarchists publicly denounced the discipline of the industrial revolution. The aristocratic disdain for work became the radical's hostility to economic exploitation.
Puritans of America Today Sources: "I'll do it Tomorrow" Zarick, Stonebraker
M. Engin Deniz, Zeliha Tras, and Didem Aydogan, An Investigation of Academic Procrastination, Locus of Control, and Emotional Intelligence Source: "I'll do it Tomorrow" Zarick, Stonebraker Reference: McCrea et al. Construal Level and Procrastination. Psychological Science, 2008; 19 (12): 1308 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02240.x How does the perception of tasks affect procrastination?

Two different questionnaires were sent to two groups of students and they were asked to respond by e-mail within three weeks. Students would be paid upon completion
One questionnaire had very basic questions: "How do you open a bank account?"
The other questionnaire had very abstract questions: "What type of person opens a bank account?"
Those who thought about the questions abstractly were much more likely to procrastinate and some didn't complete the assignment
Those who answered basic, mundane questions e-mailed their responses much sooner.

Conclusion: Concrete tasks reduce procrastination Areas affected:
ventral tegmental area of the midbrain
hippocampus
amygdala
nucleus accumbens.
Target: Frontal cortex

Neurotransmitters like glutamate and GABA also moderate the action of the pathway, but its primary functions are affected by neurons that respond to dopamine.
In rodents, destruction of the mesolimbic circuit results in loss of cravings, motivation, and lethargy. Limitations:
Just as Dr. Hedges said, the brain is multi-variable, interconnected, and complex
There is even controversy over the Mesolimbic pathway function, especially in learning
Rats with damaged system did not lose ability to learn
Serotonin also important in reward Source: Berridge KC. 2007. The debate over dopamine's role in reward: the case for incentive salience. Psychopharmacology 191:391-431 Solutions Source: JOSEPH DEVEAUGH-GEISS, C. KEITH CONNERS, ELIAS H. SARKIS, PAUL K. WINNER, LAWRENCE D. GINSBERG, J. MICHAEL HEMPHILL, ANTONIO LAURENZA, CATHLEEN F. BARROWS, CHRISTOPHER J. WEBSTER, CHRISTOPHER J. STOTKA, MAHNAZ ASGHARNEJAD, GW320659 for the Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 41, Issue 8, August 2002, Pages 914-920, ISSN 0890-8567, 10.1097/00004583-200208000-00009.
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890856709610716) Neurological Issues: Dopamine reuptake medication for ADHD treatment
Pomodoro Technique: 25 minute work, 5 minute break, larger break after 2 hours
Start Small
Challenge Yourself. Take the long-term perspective. you CAN do it!
Write out your goals daily. (get my physics hw done)
Don't keep it to yourself. Make a public commitment to complete a task.
Reward yourself after a period of consent effort References http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Why-Procrastination-is-Good-for-You-162358476.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-and-sensibility/201104/historical-view-procrastination

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200706/the-lure-laziness

http://faculty.winthrop.edu/stonebrakerr/research/procrastination.pdf

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/04/procrastination.aspx

McCrea et al. Construal Level and Procrastination. Psychological Science, 2008; 19 (12): 1308 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02240.x

M. Engin Deniz, Zeliha Tras, and Didem Aydogan, An Investigation of Academic Procrastination, Locus of Control, and Emotional Intelligence,

Lampros Perogamvros, Sophie Schwartz, The roles of the reward system in sleep and dreaming, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 36, Issue 8, September 2012, Pages 1934-1951, ISSN 0149-7634, 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.05.010.
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763412000899)

JOSEPH DEVEAUGH-GEISS, C. KEITH CONNERS, ELIAS H. SARKIS, PAUL K. WINNER, LAWRENCE D. GINSBERG, J. MICHAEL HEMPHILL, ANTONIO LAURENZA, CATHLEEN F. BARROWS, CHRISTOPHER J. WEBSTER, CHRISTOPHER J. STOTKA, MAHNAZ ASGHARNEJAD, GW320659 for the Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 41, Issue 8, August 2002, Pages 914-920, ISSN 0890-8567, 10.1097/00004583-200208000-00009.
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890856709610716)
Keywords: GW320659; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Berridge KC. 2007. The debate over dopamine's role in reward: the case for incentive salience. Psychopharmacology 191:391-431

"I'll do it Tomorrow" Zarick, Stonebraker
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