NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Present-Bias, Procrastination and Deadlines in a Field Experiment

Alberto Bisin, Kyle Hyndman

NBER Working Paper No. 19874
Issued in January 2014
NBER Program(s):   CH   ED

We study procrastination in the context of a field experiment involving students who must exert costly effort to complete certain tasks by a fixed deadline. Students display a strong demand for commitment in the form of self-imposed deadlines. However, deadlines appear not to increase task completion rates. Students who report themselves as being more disorganized delay task completion significantly more. We estimate that the fraction of students displaying present bias in our sample is over 40%. Furthermore, we structurally estimate present bias and other possible behavioral aspects of students' decision making by fitting the experimental data on both completion rates and failed attempts through a stylized stopping time choice model. The point estimate of present bias is 30% in our preferred specification. Present-bias appears, however, not to significantly affect behavior in the context of repeated similar tasks. This suggests various frame effects whereby repeated similar task activate internal self-control. Beyond present bias, our results indicate that other behavioral characteristics play an important role in inducing procrastination.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19874

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