Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why Do We Overcommit? Study Suggests We Think We’ll Have More Time In The Future Than We Have Today

Date:
February 17, 2005
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
If your appointment book runneth over, it could mean one of two things: Either you are enviably popular or you make the same faulty assumptions about the future as everyone else. Psychological research points to the latter explanation. Research by two business-school professors reveals that people over-commit because we expect to have more time in the future than we have in the present.

WASHINGTON — If your appointment book runneth over, it could mean one of two things: Either you are enviably popular or you make the same faulty assumptions about the future as everyone else. Psychological research points to the latter explanation. Research by two business-school professors reveals that people over-commit because we expect to have more time in the future than we have in the present. Of course, when tomorrow turns into today, we discover that we are too busy to do everything we promised.

The study appears in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology (JEP): General, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Gal Zauberman, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and John Lynch Jr., PhD, of Duke University, also learned from paper-and-pencil questionnaires (respondents to seven different surveys numbered 95, 68, 241, 61, 264, 48 and 130) that that this expectation of more time “slack,” a surplus of a given resource available to complete a task, is more pronounced for time than money.

The authors suspect that’s because every day’s a little different: The nature of time fools us and we “forget” about how things fill our days. Money is more “fungible,” freely exchanged for something of like kind -- such as four quarters for a dollar bill. Write Zauberman and Lynch, “Barring some change in employment or family status, supply and demand of money are relatively constant over time, and people are aware of that. Compared with demands on one’s time, money needs in the future are relatively predictable from money needs today.”

Participants believed that both time and money would be more available in “a month” than “today,” and believed it more strongly for time than for money. A deeper investigation of a psychological phenomenon called “delay discounting,” in which people tend to lessen the importance of future rewards, showed that people also discounted future time more than both gains and losses in future money.

Zauberman and Lynch continue, “People are consistently surprised to be so busy today. Lacking knowledge of what specific tasks will compete for their time in the future, they act as if new demands will not inevitably arise that are as pressing as those faced today.”

In short, the future is ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.

To cross-check support for their hypotheses, the authors ran a final survey that measured the expected growth or contraction of slack time and slack money over time. They tested how those expectations predicted subsequent decisions to invest time or money at two points in time. As before, participants who expected to have more time but not more money discounted future time investments more than they discounted future money investments. Participants who expected to have more money than time showed a mirror-image pattern. Say the authors, “This is important because it demonstrates that the resource dependency we observed in the earlier experiments is explainable by changes in slack.”

Can people learn to predict future time demands more in line with reality? The authors observe, “It is difficult to learn from feedback that time will not be more abundant in the future. Specific activities vary from day to day, so [people] do not learn from feedback that, in aggregate, total demands are similar.” Money’s “slack pools” are smoother, more equal and more predictable over time.

Article: “Resource slack and propensity to discount delayed investments of time versus money,” Gal Zauberman, PhD, Kenan-Flagler Business School, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and John G. Lynch Jr., PhD, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 134, No. 1.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/xge134123.pdf

###

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Why Do We Overcommit? Study Suggests We Think We’ll Have More Time In The Future Than We Have Today." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050211084233.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2005, February 17). Why Do We Overcommit? Study Suggests We Think We’ll Have More Time In The Future Than We Have Today. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050211084233.htm
American Psychological Association. "Why Do We Overcommit? Study Suggests We Think We’ll Have More Time In The Future Than We Have Today." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050211084233.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins