I put off sitting down to write today for quite a while. My wife, who is also a writer, and I went out for lunch and gabbed for an hour or so when we both should have been working.
I have no one and nothing to blame for my procrastination. My wife might like to blame the irrestible charm and conversational chops of her beloved husband. Ok, so the truth is that I'd like her to blame her postponement on me.
According to new research, though, she might be able to blame her choice to delay work on something else beyond her control: her genes.
German researchers found that a tendency to postpone actions among women is associated with certain genetics that give individuals a predisposition toward higher levels of dopamine.
"The neurotransmitter dopamine has repeatedly been associated with increased cognitive flexibility in the past," says Dr. Erhan Genç from the Ruhr-University Bochum. "This is not fundamentally bad but is often accompanied by increased distractibility."
The team used a combination of genetic analyses and questionnaires to determine the dopamine predispositions and level of action control for 278 men and women. They found that women with poorer action control had a genetic tendency towards higher dopamine levels.
"We assume that this makes it more difficult to maintain a distinct intention to act," says doctoral candidate and researcher Caroline Schlüter. "Women with a higher dopamine level as a result of their genotype may tend to postpone actions because they are more distracted by environmental and other factors."
The same correlation was not present among the men in the study. Genc says while the gender-specific differences are not fully understood, the female sex hormone oestrogen (also known as estrogen) that influences dopamine levels in the brain seems to play a role.
"Women may therefore be more susceptible to genetic differences in dopamine levels due to oestrogen, which, in turn, is reflected in behaviour," says Genc.
Follow-up studies aim to further investigate the relationship between genes, estrogen and action control that might lead to more procrastination.
Meanwhile, I should really finish up this... hey, what was that? Looks like a squirrel....