Deadlines and Cognitive Limitations

68 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2022

See all articles by Steffen Altmann

Steffen Altmann

University of Copenhagen; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Christian Traxler

Hertie School; Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Philipp Weinschenk

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

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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: C93, D03, D91

Suggested Citation

Altmann, Steffen and Traxler, Christian and Weinschenk, Philipp, Deadlines and Cognitive Limitations. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11129, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4283404 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4283404

Steffen Altmann (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Nørregade 10
Copenhagen, København DK-1165
Denmark

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
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Germany

Christian Traxler

Hertie School ( email )

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Germany

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

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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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