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Many Balls in the Air Make Time Fly: The Effect of Multitasking on Time Perception and Time Preferences

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Abstract

In this paper, we study how increasing the cognitive demands of multitasking affects time preferences. The novelty of this paper is that it studies how time perception mediates the effect of multitasking on time preferences. Results from experimental psychology have demonstrated that people tend to experience the passage of time as quicker when they are busy with cognitively-demanding tasks. If time is experienced as passing faster, the future should be experienced as being closer, and patience should increase. However, a standard prediction from behavioral economics is that being cognitively loaded leads to less patient decisions. Our hypothesis is that increases in patience, driven by the speeding up of time, and decreases in patience, driven by decreased cognitive capacity, added together explain the total effect of increasing the cognitive demands of multitasking on time preferences. We also shed light on whether the observed relationship between time preferences and time perception within subjects is mirrored when comparing between subjects.

Suggested Citation

  • Hardardottir, Hjördis, 2019. "Many Balls in the Air Make Time Fly: The Effect of Multitasking on Time Perception and Time Preferences," Working Papers 2019:11, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 17 Sep 2019.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2019_011
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    Keywords

    Time preferences; Multitasking; Cognitive load; Time perception; Foundations of preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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