They say there are two types of people in the world: doers and procrastinators (or “thinkers” as they like to be called). According to a new study, the difference between these two groups, and which one you fit into, could all be down to the way your brain is wired and how it manages emotions.
Biopsychologists from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to discover two brain areas that appear to underpin an individual’s self-control and emotional-control mechanisms. They found that the size and connectivity of these regions help to determine whether people will take action or delay for another today. Oddly enough, this means that procrastination is not about managing time, it’s about managing emotions.
Recently published in the journal Psychological Studies, the study scanned the juicy brains of 264 healthy people, before which they had surveyed the participants to measure their ability to get on with tasks. The findings clearly showed that people with poor action control, aka procrastinators, had a larger amygdala and had less connectivity between the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dorsal ACC).
“These two areas of the brain had already been linked with action control in former studies,” study author Dr Erhan Genç noted in a statement.
Since this corner of the brain is linked to our emotional control, it suggests that “doers” are simply better at managing competing distractions and negative emotions. It’s almost as if action-oriented people are able to focus on tasks because they less tangled up with anxiety and doubting thoughts.
“Individuals with a higher amygdala volume may be more anxious about the negative consequences of an action – they tend to hesitate and put off things,” Dr Genç speculates. “Due to a low functional connection between amygdala and dorsal ACC, this effect may be augmented, as interfering negative emotions and alternative actions might not be sufficiently regulated.”
The researchers are looking to follow up this study by investigating whether this is hardwired into your brain or it’s a skill that can be practiced and learned.
“Even though the differences regarding our ability to control our actions affect our private and professional success as well as our mental and physical health to a considerable degree, their neural foundations haven’t as yet been sufficiently studied,” added Caroline Schlüter, who is addressing this issue in her PhD thesis.