Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 489–503 | Cite as

Which task will we choose first? Precrastination and cognitive load in task ordering

  • Lisa R. FournierEmail author
  • Emily Coder
  • Clark Kogan
  • Nisha Raghunath
  • Ezana Taddese
  • David A. Rosenbaum


Precrastination, as opposed to procrastination, is the tendency to embark on tasks as soon as possible, even at the expense of extra physical effort. We examined the generality of this recently discovered phenomenon by extending the methods used to study it, mainly to test the hypothesis that precrastination is motivated by cognitive load reduction. Our participants picked up two objects and brought them back together. Participants in Experiment 1 demonstrated precrastination by picking up the near object first, carrying it back to the farther object, and then returning with both. Also, participants given an additional cognitive task (memory load) had a higher probability of precrastinating than those not given the added cognitive task. The objects in Experiment 1 were buckets with balls that had a very low chance of spillage; carrying them required low demands on attention. The near-object-first preference was eliminated in Experiment 2, where the near and far objects were cups with water that had a high chance of spillage; carrying them required higher demands on attention. Had precrastination occurred in this case, it would have greatly increased cognitive effort. The results establish the generality of precrastination and suggest that it is sensitive to cognitive load. Our results complement others showing that people tend to structure their behavior to minimize cognitive effort. The main new discovery is that people expend more physical effort to do so. We discuss the applied implications of our findings, as well as the possibility that precrastination may be a default, automatic behavior.


Precrastination Task ordering Decision making Cognitive load Dual task 



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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa R. Fournier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emily Coder
    • 1
  • Clark Kogan
    • 2
  • Nisha Raghunath
    • 1
  • Ezana Taddese
    • 1
  • David A. Rosenbaum
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Center for Interdisciplinary Statistical Education and ResearchWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California RiversideRiversideUSA

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