Two Harvard Professors Reveal One Reason Our Brains Love to Procrastinate

Author : ZainabKhatija
Publish Date : 2020-11-10


Two Harvard Professors Reveal One Reason Our Brains Love to Procrastinate

sometime around 2006, two Harvard professors began to study why we procrastinate. Why do we avoid doing the things we know we should do, even when it’s clear that they are good for us?

To answer this question, the two professors — Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman — conducted a study where participants were asked whether they would agree to enroll in a savings plan that automatically placed two percent of their paycheck in a savings account.

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Nearly every participant agreed that saving money was a good idea, but their behavior said otherwise:

One version of the question asked participants to enroll in the savings plan as soon as possible. In this scenario, only 30 percent of people said they would agree to enroll in the plan.
In another version of the question, participants were asked to enroll in a savings plan in the distant future (like a year from today). In this scenario, 77 percent of people said they would agree to enroll in the plan.
Why did the timeline alter their responses so much?

As it turns out, this little experiment can tell us a lot about why we procrastinate on behaviors that we know we should do.

Why We Procrastinate: Present You vs. Future You
We have a tendency to care too much about our present selves and not enough about our future selves. We like to enjoy immediate benefits in the present, especially if the costs of our choices don't become apparent until far in the future.

For example:

The payoff of eating a donut is immediate (sugar!) and the cost of skipping workouts won’t show up until you’ve skipped for months.
The payoff of spending money today is immediate (new iPhone!) and the cost of forgetting to save for retirement won’t show up until you’re years behind.

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The payoff of unhindered fossil fuel usage is immediate (more energy! more heat! more electricity!) and the cost of climate change won’t reveal itself until decades of damage have been done.
However, when we consider these problems in the distant future, our choices usually change. In one year, would you rather be overweight and eating donuts or healthy and exercising consistently? In the long-run the choice is easy, but when it comes time to make the choice today, in this very moment, we discount the long-term costs and overvalue the immediate benefits of unproductive behaviors.

Behavioral economists refer to this concept “time inconsistency” because when we think about the future we want to make choices that lead to long-term benefits (“Yes, I'll save more!”), but when we think about today, we want to make choices that lead to short-term benefits (“I'll spend it right now.”). 

I like to call this the Present You vs. Future You problem. Future You knows you should do things that lead to the highest benefit in the long-term, but Present You tends to overvalue things that lead to immediate benefit right now.

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Category :marketing
Author Website : www.advocateinlahore.com

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