How do we decide which object to pick up when faced with two alternatives? Imagine one object is near, but needs to be carried a long distance, and the other object is far, but needs to be carried a short distance. You might predict that participants would favour the far object that needs to be carried a short distance. In other words, they would procrastinate and delay picking up an object to minimise physical effort. In actuality, participants prefer to carry the near object a long distance, which is called pre-crastination. Pre-crastination may be preferred to procrastination because picking up the first object hastens completion of the first goal of the task and, subsequently, decreases cognitive load. The goal of the current study was to further investigate the mechanisms of the pre-crastination effect. This was done by converting the primarily walking task used in the first study on pre-crastination to a reach-to-grasp task. This change enabled the measurement of the duration of information processing (i.e., reaction time) when participants decided which object to move. Surprisingly, participants exhibited a range of behaviours: about 40% pre-crastinated, 40% procrastinated, and 20% neither pre-crastinated nor procrastinated. We suggest that scaling the task down from a walking task to a reach-to-grasp task altered the physical effort, cognitive load, and the interaction between these task demands. This enabled some participants to pre-crastinate and others to procrastinate. There was an intriguing relationship between the duration of information processing and the behaviour of participants: participants with the shortest reaction time had the strongest tendency to pre-crastinate, and participants with the longest reaction time had the strongest tendency to procrastinate. These findings fit with the automatic pre-crastination response hypothesis; that the “decision” to pre-crastinate is automatic. This automaticity caused the short durations of information processing for participants who pre-crastinated. Participants who procrastinated had to, first, inhibit the automatic response to pre-crastinate, which caused long durations of information processing.
- Information processing
- Reaction time
- Trajectory analysis
- Two-alternative forced choice task