Experts explain science behind procrastination

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It is the night before finals, and students all across campus — no, all across the planet — are cramming for their exams.

Students’ habitual practice of avoidant coping strategies leads them down a path of emotional turmoil that often proves more destructive than the procrastinated event would have.

As the brain evolved, its neurological connections increased. Therefore, humans became capable of complex thought. The issue is that higher intelligence led to a process of perceived-pain avoidance, which aids in our innate procrastination, said Christine Chew, Dixie State University assistant professor of psychology. Students often practice faulty thinking as to the cause and effects of procrastination, but there are some ways to combat it.

“I don’t know if there is one answer for why people do it,” Chew said. “They know they have things to do, but they would rather be biking, hiking or whatever else students do for fun.”

Chew said procrastination is simply people putting off the things they do not want to do. People innately conditioned to seek pleasure — to feel good. People have things that come up and cause a need for prioritization, and sometimes, people use those things as an excuse to procrastinate.

“I procrastinate on almost every assignment,” said Aaron Crane, a senior communication major from Glenns Ferry, Idaho. “I know I shouldn’t do it, but things come up, and I just push it back.”

There are many different neurological reasons for procrastination, said Palwasha Ahad, DSU assistant professor of psychology. The emotional center of the brain, the amygdala, resides in the limbic system and has more time to develop than other areas, so there are neural connections, which creates a complex connection between logic and emotion.

“Things that cause us anxiety; studying, cleaning, relationships; can cause our amygdala to become negatively stimulated,” Ahad said. “One way to override the negative stimulation would be to procrastinate.”

Ahad said if people fail to take control and properly prioritize, continued avoidance could cause continually increasing anxiety. If persistent, avoidance causes the body to produce an abundance of stress related neurohormones.

“I get stressed, and I go through and prioritize when each assignment is due,” said Kyle Smith, a junior criminal justice major from Springdale. “Then, I see how long I can put it off.”

Chew said some people seem to think they work better under pressure, but no matter the circumstance, if people are working under pressure they are not functioning in their full capacity.

“I actually think I work better when I have a deadline or when I’m under pressure,” Crane said.

Tacy Neilson, a senior communication major from Salt Lake City, said she procrastinates 60 percent of the time. However, she has never given much thought as to why.

“Maybe I’m lazy; maybe it’s self-gratification,” Neilson said. “I’d rather watch TV or spend time with my children than do an assignment — it’s a habit.”

Completing assignments in a timely, prioritized manner lessens the long-term release of stress hormones that reinforce avoidance, Ahad said.

For any behavior that people tend to procrastinate with but want to do, they should set shortterm attainable goals,” Ahad said. “Focus on steps. Allow their brains to complete steps quickly and efficiently with very little stress, so they can create healthy productive brains.”