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Procrastination and Impatience, Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics


We use a combination of lab and field evidence to study whether highly-impatient individuals are more likely to procrastinate. To measure impatience, we elicit individual discount rates by giving participants choices between smaller-sooner and larger-later rewards. To measure procrastination, we record how fast participants complete three tasks: an online game, their application to the university, and a mandatory survey. We find that, consistent with the theory, impatient individuals procrastinate more, but only in tasks where there are costs to delay (the online game and university application). Since we paid participants by check to control for transaction costs, we are also able to determine whether the participants’ cashing behavior is consistent with the timing of their payment choice. We find substantial evidence of time inconsistency. Namely, more than half of the participants who received their check straight away instead of waiting two weeks for a reasonably larger amount, subsequently took more than two weeks to cash it.




Ernesto G. Reuben, Paola Sapienza, Luigi Zingales

Date Published



Reuben, Ernesto G., Paola Sapienza, and Luigi Zingales. 2015. Procrastination and Impatience. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics.: 63-76.


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