On the Interaction of Memory and Procrastination: Implications for Reminders

Keith M Marzilli Ericson

NBER Working Paper No. 20381
Issued in August 2014
NBER Program(s):   AG

I examine the interaction between present-bias and limited memory. Individuals in the model must choose when and whether to complete a task, but may forget or procrastinate. Present-bias expands the effect of memory: it induces delay and limits take-up of reminders. Cheap reminder technology can bound the cost of limited memory for time-consistent individuals but not for present-biased individuals, who procrastinate on setting up reminders. Moreover, while improving memory increases welfare for time-consistent individuals, it may harm present-biased individuals because limited memory can function as a commitment device. Thus, present-biased individuals may be better off with reminders that are unanticipated. Finally, I show how to optimally time the delivery of reminders to present-biased individuals.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20381

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin w19831 Lights, Camera,... Income!: Estimating Poverty Using National Accounts, Survey Means, and Lights
Bisin and Hyndman w19874 Present-Bias, Procrastination and Deadlines in a Field Experiment
Qian w20412 Making Progress on Foreign Aid
La Porta and Shleifer w20205 Informality and Development
Patel, Wang, and Wei w20236 Global Value Chains and Effective Exchange Rates at the Country-Sector Level
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us