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Deadlines and Cognitive Limitations

Author

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  • Altmann, Steffen

    () (IZA and University of Copenhagen)

  • Traxler, Christian

    () (Hertie School of Governance)

  • Weinschenk, Philipp

    () (University of Kaiserslautern)

Abstract

This paper studies the interplay between deadlines and cognitive limitations. We analyze an agent's decision to complete a one-off task under a deadline. Postponing the task can be beneficial for the agent; missing the deadline, however, leads to a drop in the agent's rewards. If the agent exhibits cognitive limitations, postponing increases the risk of becoming inattentive and failing to complete the task in time. Our framework provides a rich set of predictions on the behavioral implications of deadlines. We test these predictions in a field experiment at a dental clinic, in which we exogenously vary deadlines and rewards for arranging check-up appointments. The empirical results underline the behavioral relevance of cognitive limitations. Imposing relatively tight deadlines induces patients to act earlier and at a persistently higher frequency than without a deadline. Evidence from a follow-up experiment and complementary surveys supports the notion that deadlines may serve as a powerful instrument when individuals' cognitive capacity is limited.

Suggested Citation

  • Altmann, Steffen & Traxler, Christian & Weinschenk, Philipp, 2017. "Deadlines and Cognitive Limitations," IZA Discussion Papers 11129, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11129
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Traxler & Franz Westermaier & Ansgar Wohlschlegel, 2017. "Bunching on the Autobahn? Speeding Responses to a 'Notched' Penalty Scheme," CESifo Working Paper Series 6786, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Traxler, Christian & Westermaier, Franz G. & Wohlschlegel, Ansgar, 2018. "Bunching on the Autobahn? Speeding responses to a ‘notched’ penalty scheme," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 78-94.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    limited memory; cognitive limitations; deadlines; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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