Procrastination in Teams

38 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2016 Last revised: 2 Sep 2016

See all articles by Joshua S. Gans

Joshua S. Gans

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; NBER

Peter Landry

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

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Date Written: August 31, 2016


Naively present-biased agents are known to be severe procrastinators. In team settings, procrastination can represent a form of free-riding that, in excess, may jeopardize a team’s ability to meet a deadline. Despite their reputations, we show how naivete and present bias can, in the right task environment, be desirable traits in a teammate that enable 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 analysis 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.

Keywords: hyperbolic discounting, present bias, teams, motivation, procrastination, higher-order beliefs, non-Bayesian updating, null events

JEL Classification: C72

Suggested Citation

Gans, Joshua S. and Landry, Peter, Procrastination in Teams (August 31, 2016). Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2713817, Available at SSRN: or

Joshua S. Gans (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )



NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Peter Landry

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4

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