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Pre-Crastination

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In this article, we describe a phenomenon we discovered while conducting experiments on walking and reaching. We asked university students to pick up either of two buckets, one to the left of an alley and one to the right, and to carry the selected bucket to the alley's end. In most trials, one of the buckets was closer to the end point. We emphasized choosing the easier task, expecting participants to prefer the bucket that would be carried a shorter distance. Contrary to our expectation, participants chose the bucket that was closer to the start position, carrying it farther than the other bucket. On the basis of results from nine experiments and participants' reports, we concluded that this seemingly irrational choice reflected a tendency to pre-crastinate, a term we introduce to refer to the hastening of subgoal completion, even at the expense of extra physical effort. Other tasks also reveal this preference, which we ascribe to the desire to reduce working memory loads.
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... Biased decisions are also observed in situations in which choices appear completely arbitrary and identical in terms of their utility (e.g., a bias toward using the middle stall(s) in a row of bathroom stalls; Christenfeld, 1995; see also Fournier, Stubblefield, Dyre & Rosenbaum, 2018, for choices involving task order). Recently, researchers showed that people can be biased to start 1 or complete a sub-goal as soon as possible in an object transport task, even at a cost of expending more physical energy (Rosenbaum, Gong and Potts, 2014; see also a similar behavior found in pigeons, Wasserman & Brzykcy, 2015). Participants picked up one of two weighted buckets (their choice) along a walkway and carried it to a platform at the end. ...
... This finding is not consistent with the history of research showing that the least effortful path will be chosen when all else is equal (Botvinick & Rosen, 2008;Hull, 1943;McGuire, 1969), and it suggests that all else was not equal in this object transport task. Rosenbaum et al. (2014) labeled the close-bucket bias "precrastination" to refer to the tendency to complete a task or sub-goal sooner rather than later, even at the expense of extra physical effort. They speculated that the close-bucket bias (precrastination) may conserve cognitive effort by decreasing demands on prospective memory (Rosenbaum et al., 2014). ...
... Rosenbaum et al. (2014) labeled the close-bucket bias "precrastination" to refer to the tendency to complete a task or sub-goal sooner rather than later, even at the expense of extra physical effort. They speculated that the close-bucket bias (precrastination) may conserve cognitive effort by decreasing demands on prospective memory (Rosenbaum et al., 2014). Picking up the bucket closer to their starting point may allow participants to offload the sub-goal of picking up a bucket earlier, thus reducing memory load and increasing cognitive efficiency in completing the transport task. ...
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When ordering tasks, people tend to first perform the task that can be started or completed sooner (precrastination) even if it requires more physical effort. Evidence from transport tasks suggests that precrastination can reduce cognitive effort and will likely not occur if it increases cognitive effort. However, some individuals precrastinate even when it increases cognitive effort. We examined whether individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) influence this suboptimal choice. Participants retrieved two cups of water along a corridor, in the order of their choosing. We measured the frequency of choosing the close cup first (precrastination) while varying water levels in each cup (attention demand) located at different distances. Results showed that the tendency to select the far cup first (avoid precrastination) increases when the close cup is full (high attention demand) vs. not full (low attention demand). Post-hoc results showed high (vs. low) WMC individuals more frequently bypass decisions with relatively higher costs of cognitive effort, avoiding precrastination when the attentional demand of carrying the close (vs. far) cup is relatively high (close-cup full and far-cup half full), but not when it is relatively low (far-cup full). However, there was no evidence that WMC could explain why some individuals always precrastinated, at costs of cognitive effort. Instead, individuals who always precrastinated reported automatic behavior, and those who avoided precrastinating reported decisions of efficiency. Learning, the relationship between precrastination and tendencies to enjoy/engage in thinking or procrastinate, and evidence that precrastination required more cognitive effort in our task, are discussed.
... Finally, we consider recent, influential research on carrying to illustrate how attending to the broader, valuerealizing context of actions can clarify and contextualize studies framed only in terms of goals, rules, and laws. Rosenbaum et al. (2014) presented participants with a simple, two-part goal task: Walk down a pathway which had pails stationed alongside, reach and pick up a pail with its contents, and carry it to a target destination. Besides varying in weight, pails were positioned closer to or farther from the target destination and on the right or left side of the pathway. ...
... An ecological values account approaches the situation differently. Researchers (Potts et al., 2018;Rosenbaum et al., 2014) began their research assuming that one value (i.e., comfort), treated as a goal (do what is "easier"), would yield a lawful outcome (i.e., Hull's least effort principle). When that did not work out as planned, they adopted another isolated value (i.e., speed) as a goal, treating it as fundamental (i.e., do part one of the task as quickly as possible). ...
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Values have long been considered important for psychology but are frequently characterized as beliefs, goals, rules, or norms. Ecological values theory locates them, not in people or in objects, but in ecosystem relationships and the demands those relationships place on fields of action within the system. To test the worth of this approach, we consider skilled coordination tasks in social psychology (e.g., negotiating disagreements, synchrony and asynchrony in interactions, and selectivity in social learning) and perception-action (e.g., driving vehicles and carrying a child). Evidence suggests that a diverse array of values (e.g., truth, social solidarity, justice, flexibility, safety, and comfort) work in a cooperative tension to guide actions. Values emerge as critical constraints on action that differ from goals, rules, and natural laws, and yet provide the larger context in which they can function effectively. Prospects and challenges for understanding values and their role in action, including theoretical and methodological issues, are considered.
... You might be a turtlelike, steady worker who tends to work slowly but surely, spreading a task out over time (Gevers et al., 2015). Perhaps you are a task-ninja precrastinator who bounces e-mails and projects off your plate as quickly as you can (Rosenbaum et al., 2014). Or you might be a time-wasting procrastinator, who puts off tasks and completes most of your work leading up to a deadline (Silver & Sabini, 1981). ...
... People who engage in procrastination tend to perform poorly on focal tasks because they do not spend as much time on them as do precrastinators or steady workers (Klingsieck, 2013;Steel, 2007). Similarly, precrastinators sometimes expend more effort than is necessary to complete a task (e.g., Rosenbaum et al., 2014). These observations have given rise to two distinct interpretations of task completion. ...
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Standard approaches for identifying task-completion strategies, such as precrastination and procrastination, reduce behavior to single markers that oversimplify the process of task completion. To illustrate this point, we consider three task-completion strategies and introduce a new method to identify their use. This approach was tested using an archival data set (N = 8,655) of the available electronic records of research participation at Kansas State University. The approach outperformed standard diagnostic approaches and yielded an interesting finding: Several strategies were associated with negative outcomes. Specifically, both procrastinators and precrastinators struggled to finish tasks on time. Together, these findings underscore the importance of using holistic approaches to determine the relationship among task characteristics, individual differences, and task completion.
... On the other hand, pre-crastination is defined as "the tendency to complete or at least begin, tasks as soon as possible, even at the expense of extra physical effort" (Rosenbaum, Gong, & Potts, 2014;Vonder Haar, McBride, & Rosenbaum, 2019). Pre-crastination has recently been revealed as an analogous tendency to the mere-urgency effect. ...
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Precrastination is the tendency many individuals have to complete a task as soon as possible in order to get it out of the way [Rosenbaum, D. A., Gong, L., & Potts, C. A. (2014). Pre-crastination: Hastening subgoal completion at the expense of extra physical effort. Psychological Science, 25(7), 1487–1496. doi:10.1177/0956797614532657]. The current study (N = 48) examined whether precrastination is affected by a concurrent memory load as predicted by the cognitive-load-reduction (CLEAR) hypothesis. Participants completed a bucket-carrying task under different memory-load conditions. In addition, the amount of physical effort was manipulated by changing the distance people needed to walk while carrying the weighted buckets. The tendency to precrastinate by picking up a near bucket and carrying it further than necessary was affected by the memory load. People were more likely to precrastinate when doing so resulted in the more rapid renewal of cognitive resources and were less likely to precrastinate when this required that the memory load be held for a longer period of time. These data are consistent with the position that precrastination is linked with working memory resources and occurs in an attempt to clear items from a mental to-do list.
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