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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Do you ever find yourself rushing to get things done, even if it means putting in extra effort? You might be precrastinating, and it turns out there’s a scientific explanation for this behavior. Researchers at the University of California-Riverside have discovered that our tendency to act quickly and make decisions early is driven by our desire to have a clear mind. Their study sheds light on the psychology behind precrastination and its impact on our everyday lives.

A team of psychologists, led by David A. Rosenbaum, a distinguished psychology professor, conducted several experiments to understand the decision-making process in precrastination. They asked students to make decisions and found that people tend to think before they act, even in seemingly impulsive situations.

The researchers concluded that individuals prefer to make up their minds as soon as possible rather than act quickly and then have to think or rethink their choices. For example, when faced with tasks like cleaning a car, people often spend extra time planning their approach rather than diving in. This illustrates the fundamental tendency to clear our minds and make decisions early. The study also highlights the potential consequences of precrastination, such as rushing important judgments or actions without considering all the evidence.

“In our experiments, participants took longer for the first choice than the second and rarely changed their minds, even when we emphasized second response accuracy,” Rosenbaum says in a university release. “This led us to conclude that our participants wanted to make up their minds as soon as possible rather than act quickly and then have to think or rethink. This suggests that even though people engage in seemingly impulsive decision-making, they may actually be predisposed to curtail it.”

homework and procrastination on road signs
Photo by Pedro Forester Da Silva from Unsplash

The phenomenon of precrastination was discovered by Rosenbaum’s lab in 2014 and has since gained attention. Many people engage in precrastination, whether it’s answering emails too quickly or submitting unfinished papers. Understanding this behavior can help us make better decisions in everyday life, from managing our responsibilities to navigating complex situations.

The research team emphasizes that there are individual differences in precrastination. While most people take their time to think before responding, a small number of individuals act quickly and then change their minds. These differences may be attributed to personality traits or temporary factors like caffeine consumption. However, it’s important to note that impulsivity should be approached with caution in certain contexts, such as nuclear silos or brain surgery.

Moving forward, the team aims to explore how precrastination is linked to personality and individual differences. They are interested in understanding the characteristics of people who tend to act impulsively and uncovering the factors that drive their decision-making process.

The implications of this research extend beyond personal productivity. In a time of political polarization, the study suggests that empathizing with those we disagree with can actually make our arguments more persuasive. Valuing empathy across party lines fosters bipartisan cooperation and reduces animosity towards the opposition. It’s a reminder that understanding different perspectives can lead to greater common ground and help bridge divides.

The study concludes that believing in the utility of cross-partisan empathy can decrease partisan animosity and build consensus on critical issues. By valuing empathy, we can work towards shared goals and create a more harmonious society. The findings highlight the power of empathy not only in personal relationships but also in shaping the political landscape.

In a world where rushing seems to be the norm, taking the time to understand others and make thoughtful decisions can make a significant difference. So, the next time you find yourself rushing through tasks, remember that precrastination is a widespread phenomenon, but it’s also important to find the right balance. Making decisions early can clear our minds, but we should always consider the consequences and strive for empathy in our interactions with others.

The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

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1 Comment

  1. D C M says:

    Is there anything at all that people can do that isn’t a kind of mental pathology? is everything we do a kind of mental disorder?
    I took a psychology class back about 1965 that tried to define what was mentally healthy because everything was a mental disorder. Nothing seems to have been done since then.