The Science of Procrastination

I personally struggle with procrastination on a daily basis. For example, this is my first post for this blogging period. I’m not proud of it, and always feel bad while I’m doing it, so why do I still engage in this horrible habit over and over again? I decided this would be the perfect topic to research.

Experts define procrastination as “the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result” (Jaffe para. 3).

One of the first studies done on procrastination was published in Psychological Science in 1997. College students were rated on a scale of procrastination.  Then, their academic performance, stress, and general health were tracked throughout the semester. Initially, those who procrastinated showed lower levels of stress, most likely because of putting off their work to engage in more pleasurable activities. However, in the end procrastinators received lower grades and reported higher amounts of stress and illness (Jaffe para. 8).

I believe this observational study shows that procrastination is not worth it. Although it may be fun at first, it’s not worth the stress and suffering at the end. However, being able to recognize that it’s a bad habit doesn’t cure someone from it. Most people who procrastinate already know it’s not the ideal method for getting work done, and yet they still do it. Another study was done to put the negative effects of procrastination into perspective and try to explain this issue.

Students were brought into a lab and were told they would be engaging in a math puzzle at the end of the session. Some students were told the task was an important test of their cognitive abilities, while others were told it was made to be meaningless and fun. Before completing the puzzle, the students had a time period where they could either prepare for the task or play games like Tetris. As a result, chronic procrastinators only delayed practicing for the puzzle when it was described as a cognitive evaluation. When it was described as fun, they behaved no differently from non-procrastinators (Jaffe para. 9).

The results of this experimental study initially surprised me. I would have assumed that the students would be more likely to procrastinate if it were a meaningless puzzle. However, after thinking about it, it makes sense. I only procrastinate important school work, never anything that appears fun or unnecessary. “The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort than lacking ability,” says Joseph Ferrari, a professor from the study. “It’s a maladaptive lifestyle” (Jaffe para. 10).

That’s a hard pill to swallow. It appears that procrastination is way more than a bad habit. It’s a true problem in the brain. Ferrari compared it this way: Chronic procrastinators can’t be told to just get things done anymore than a depressed person can be told to cheer up.

Works Cited

Jaffe, Eric. “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” Association for Psychological Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <>.


2 thoughts on “The Science of Procrastination

  1. cmh5996

    I feel your pain when it comes to being a procrastinator. I too unfortunately allow myself to endlessly leave assignments to be finished until the last minute. Your post got me thinking of how people become procrastinators. My parents aren’t procrastinators so how did I become one? Could it be that I was more involved in extracurricular activities than when my parents were learning their homework habits. I definitely think our generation has much harder time finding time for schoolwork because we endlessly over involve ourselves in so many non-academic activities. I think the reason this could be happening is because to be accepted into a good college now a days, a student needs to be the full package. This means good grades, a good SAT score and be involved in every possible club imaginable to build themselves up as a respectable candidate for admission. The New York times hosts a very interesting article that speaks in a more detailed way of the effects of over scheduling children. Check it out!

  2. Kaitlin A Kemmerer

    I loved this blog post. I definitely struggle with procrastination (here I am only starting comments now). I found the results of the experimental study interesting because I assumed the same thing you did. However, after thinking about it I came to the same conclusion you did. I was wondering if you found anything about procrastination changing with age? Do people become more or less productive? I also found this website that’s dedicated to Chronic Procrastination

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