An Experiment on Time Preference and Misprediction in Unpleasant Tasks

We experimentally investigate the time-inconsistent taste for immediate gratification and future-preference misprediction. Across seven weeks, 100 participants choose the number of unpleasant transcription tasks given various wages to complete immediately and at different future dates. Participants preferred 10-12% fewer tasks in the present compared to any future date, leading to an estimated beta of $0.83$. Comparing predictions with actual immediate-work choices provides evidence againstsubstantial sophistication, with estimates implying that participants understand no more than 24% of their present bias. Finally, we find evidence of “projection bias”: participants wished to complete 4-12% fewer tasks when decisions were elicited right after completing tasks rather than before.

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