Deadlines and Cognitive Limitations

52 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2018

See all articles by Steffen Altmann

Steffen Altmann

University of Copenhagen; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; University of Duisburg-Essen

Christian Traxler

Hertie School; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Philipp Weinschenk

University of Kaiserslautern; Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 05, 2017

Abstract

This paper studies the interplay between deadlines and cognitive limitations. We analyze an agent’s decision to complete a one-off task under a deadline. Postponing the task can be beneficial for the agent; missing the deadline, however, leads to a drop in the agent’s rewards. If the agent exhibits cognitive limitations, postponing increases the risk of becoming inattentive and failing to complete the task in time. Our framework provides a rich set of predictions on the behavioral implications of deadlines. We test these predictions in a field experiment at a dental clinic, in which we exogenously vary deadlines and rewards for arranging check-up appointments. The empirical results underline the behavioral relevance of cognitive limitations. Imposing relatively tight deadlines induces patients to act earlier and at a persistently higher frequency than without a deadline. Evidence from a follow-up experiment and complementary surveys supports the notion that deadlines may serve as a powerful instrument when individuals’ cognitive capacity is limited.

Keywords: deadlines, cognitive limitations, limited memory, field experiment

JEL Classification: C930, D030, D910

Suggested Citation

Altmann, Steffen and Traxler, Christian and Weinschenk, Philipp, Deadlines and Cognitive Limitations (December 05, 2017). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6761, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3107510 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3107510

Steffen Altmann

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Nørregade 10
Copenhagen, København DK-1165
Denmark

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

University of Duisburg-Essen ( email )

Lotharstrasse 1
Duisburg, 47048
Germany

Christian Traxler (Contact Author)

Hertie School ( email )

Friedrichstrasse 180
Quartier 110
Berlin, 10117
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschingerstr. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Philipp Weinschenk

University of Kaiserslautern ( email )

Paul-Ehrlich-Straße 14
Kaiserslautern, D-67663
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://vwl-mikro.wiwi.uni-kl.de/team/prof-dr-philipp-weinschenk/

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

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