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Read This Paper Later: Procrastination with Time-Consistent Preferences

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  • Fischer, Carolyn

    ()
    (Resources for the Future)

Abstract

A model of time-consistent procrastination is developed to assess the extent to which the observed behavior is compatible with rational behavior. When a finite work requirement must be completed by a deadline, the remaining time for leisure is an exhaustible resource. With a positive rate of time preference, the optimal allocation of this resource results in more hours spent working (and fewer in leisure) the closer the deadline. Key qualitative findings of psychological studies of academic procrastination are consistent with the standard natural resource management principles implied by the model, when suitably adapted to task aversiveness, uncertainty, and multiple deadlines. However, quantitatively, the fully rational model requires an extremely high rate of time preference or elasticity of intertemporal substitution to generate serious procrastination; furthermore, it cannot explain undesired procrastination. A companion paper, "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences" analyzes the extent to which alternative time discounting preferences can better explain such impatience and address the issue of self-control failures.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-99-19.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 1999
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-99-19

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  1. Hartwick, John M. & Kemp, Murray C. & Van Long, Ngo, 1986. "Set-up costs and theory of exhaustible resources," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 212-224, September.
  2. William D. Nordhaus, 1973. "The Allocation of Energy Resources," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(3), pages 529-576.
  3. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
  4. David I. Laibson, 1996. "Hyperbolic Discount Functions, Undersaving, and Savings Policy," NBER Working Papers 5635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Miles S. Kimball, 1989. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," NBER Working Papers 2848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
  7. Fischer, Carolyn, 1999. "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," Discussion Papers dp-99-20, Resources For the Future.
  8. Loury, Glenn C, 1978. "The Optimal Exploitation of an Unknown Reserve," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 621-36, October.
  9. Pindyck, Robert S, 1980. "Uncertainty and Exhaustible Resource Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(6), pages 1203-25, December.
  10. Loewenstein, George & Prelec, Drazen, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-97, May.
  11. Weitzman, Martin L., 1976. "The optimal development of resource pools," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 351-364, June.
  12. Gilbert, Richard J, 1979. "Optimal Depletion of an Uncertain Stock," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 47-57, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Burger, Nicholas & Charness, Gary & Lynham, John, 2011. "Field and online experiments on self-control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 393-404, March.
  2. Ozdenoren, Emre & Salant, Stephen & Silverman, Dan, 2010. "Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges," Discussion Papers dp-10-35, Resources For the Future.
  3. Philipp Weinschenk, 2010. "Increasing Workload in a Stochastic Environment," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2010_43, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  4. Weinschenk, Philipp, 2012. "Increasing workload in a stochastic environment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 286-288.
  5. Fischer, Carolyn, 1999. "Read This Paper Even Later: Procrastination with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," Discussion Papers dp-99-20, Resources For the Future.
  6. Emre Ozdenoren & Stephen Salant & Dan Silverman, 2006. "Willpower and Optimal Control of Visceral Urges," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001355, David K. Levine.
  7. Livio Stracca, 2002. "Behavioural Finance and Aggregate Market Behaviour: Where do we Stand?," Discussion Papers in Economics 02/10, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  8. Stracca, Livio, 2004. "Behavioral finance and asset prices: Where do we stand?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 373-405, June.
  9. Arthur Caplan & John Gilbert, 2004. "The Folly of Dillydally," Working Papers 2004-16, Utah State University, Department of Economics.
  10. Maria Saez-Marti & Anna Sjögren, 2007. "Deadlines and Distractions," IEW - Working Papers 347, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  11. Fabian Herweg & Daniel Müller, 2011. "Performance of procrastinators: on the value of deadlines," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 329-366, March.

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