Procrastination and impatience

Ernesto Reuben, Paola Sapienza, Luigi Zingales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use a combination of lab and field evidence to study whether highly-impatient individuals are more likely to procrastinate. To measure impatience, we elicit individual discount rates by giving participants choices between smaller-sooner and larger-later rewards. To measure procrastination, we record how quickly participants complete three tasks: an online game, their application to the university, and a mandatory survey. We find that, consistent with the theory, impatient individuals procrastinate more, but only in tasks where there are costs to delay (the online game and university application). Since we pay participants by check, we are also able to determine whether the participants' cashing behavior is consistent with the timing of their payment choice. We find substantial evidence of time inconsistency. Namely, more than half of the participants who receive their check straight away instead of waiting 2 weeks for a reasonably larger amount, subsequently take more than 2 weeks to cash it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Discount rates
  • Hyperbolic discounting
  • Impatience
  • Procrastination
  • Time inconsistency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • General Social Sciences
  • Economics and Econometrics


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