Get It Over With Or Procrastinate?

Why is it that we jump to take care of certain tasks and put off doing others? Researchers from the UBC Sauder School of Business found that when people look toward positive events in the future they experience pleasure, but also impatience, which makes for a mixed emotional experience. When it comes to upcoming losses, however, emotions tend to be all bad—so rather than postpone those negative events, a lot of people prefer to get them over with as soon as possible.

Researcher David Hardisty says some people procrastinate and put off negative events, but not as much as many would expect, because negative anticipation is so unpleasant. The data also shows that remembering bad events feels bad, and remembering good events feels good, and the more events recede into the past the more muted our emotional responses become, good or bad. Hardisty adds, “It’s exciting to have an explanation for why people make choices the way we do. Hopefully it will lead to better interventions that can help people make better long-term choices about their finances and other life events.