“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” Parkinson’s law, is an explanation classic that has survived without an artifact-free demonstration at the individual level. To evaluate Parkinson’s law, undergraduate subjects expected to judge four sets of photos of faces with reference to a subjective criterion. The experimental subjects, who were told that the fourth set was canceled before they began work on the third set, dallied on the third set; that is, as compared with controls, they prolonged work. The cancellation-dalliance effect was reobtained in two exact replications. It was obtained again in a fourth study, a conceptual replication wherein subjects processed negatively toned phrases against an objective criterion. The generalizability of the effect and explanations for it are discussed.
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The comments of Joe McGrath, Janice Kelley, and Craig J. Russell on earlier drafts are acknowledged with gratitude. Our indebtedness to several anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft is also acknowledged.
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Brannon, L.A., Hershberger, P.J. & Brock, T.C. Timeless demonstrations of Parkinson’s first law. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 6, 148–156 (1999). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03210823