NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Procrastination in Teams

Joshua S. Gans, Peter Landry

NBER Working Paper No. 21891
Issued in January 2016
NBER Program(s):PR

Naively present-biased agents are known to be severe procrastinators. In team settings, procrastination can represent a form of free-riding that, in excess, can jeopardize a team's ability to meet a deadline. Here we show how naivete and present bias, despite their reputations, can be desirable traits in a teammate, enabling a team to optimize its performance while eliminating inefficient free-riding. These benefits emerge only from a more flexible specification (in comparison to existing models) as to how naive players reassess prior beliefs upon confronting present bias. By allowing the 'depth' and 'direction' of such reassessments to vary, our model links present-biased discounting theories to the recently-revived interest in modeling non-Bayesian reactions to null events, while offering a distinct approach reminiscent of level-k reasoning. Key themes from our results include the value of behavioral diversity, the opposite effects of 'introspection' and 'extrospection' on motivation, and that under- and over-thinking can both undermine efficiency.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21891

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