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Deadlines, Procrastination, and Forgetting in Charitable Tasks: A Field Experiment

Knowles, Stephen and Servátka, Maroš and Sullivan, Trudy and Genç, Murat (2017): Deadlines, Procrastination, and Forgetting in Charitable Tasks: A Field Experiment.

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Abstract

We conduct a field experiment to test theoretical predictions regarding the effect of deadline length on task completion. We place our test in a charitable task setting in which participants are invited to complete an online survey, with a donation going to charity if they do so. Participants are given either one week, one month or no deadline by which to respond. Completions are lowest for the one month deadline and highest when no deadline is specified. Our results point out that a short deadline, and not specifying a deadline, signals urgency. By contrast, providing a longer (one month) deadline gives people permission to procrastinate, with people ultimately forgetting to complete the task.

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