The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

15 January 2007

Off-putting research

According to Professor Piers Steel (no connection to this), procrastination is quantifiable:

[T]he act of dillydallying can be boiled down to three human traits: the person's confidence, values and impulsiveness (how susceptible he or she is to immediate delight). Like an economist might, Steel combined those elements to develop a mathematical theory that can define procrastination. His work was published this month in the journal of the American Psychological Association.

"The heart of procrastination is an adaptive natural tendency to value today much more than tomorrow," said Steel, an associate professor of industrial psychology at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.

Steel's formula is called the Temporal Motivation Theory, and it works like this:

It factors the person's expectancy for succeeding at a given task (E) or self-confidence; the value of completing the task (V); its immediacy or availability (Gamma); and the person's sensitivity to delay (D) to come up with the desirability of the task (Utility).

The equation reads: Utility = E x V / (Gamma) x D.

No matter how I juggle these, I can't work up any enthusiasm for going to work tomorrow.

(Note: I wrote this up days ago and only just now got around to posting it.)

Posted at 11:45 AM to Dyssynergy


Oh, puuhhleez. I heard this on NPR this weekend. Amusing radio fodder, but made no actual usable sense. Had a lot of G but very little V. All of my family, including the 10-year old, laughed. This attempted formula does NOT in any way explain why I have already put away all traces of holiday ornaments, cleaned and vacuumed the library and discarded the tree in time for the town tree pickup, but still haven't put my summer clothes in the attic or written the holiday thank-you notes. Oh. Maybe it's because I'm in New England and it's still over 50 degrees and it seems like May? No. Less-see. It's maybe because I grew up in CA and in this regard was genetically predisposed to NO D or U factors when it came to seasonal clothing tradeouts? No, maybe it's the V. Doing any of these jobs won't benefit anyone; there's no value. Shirk it. After all, who cares? I have no problem with E; I'm totally there with E; I'm awesome at anything I undertake. Don't see the real difference between V and U. Isn't value related to desirability? Whose value? Whose desirability? P.S. I married a mathematician.

Posted by: Dana at 11:49 PM on 15 January 2007

I distinguish between V and U very easily, simply because I tend to be attentive to things I seem to need and dismissive of things I merely want. (The trick, of course, is to persuade myself that a want is in fact a need; I am not particularly good at that, though I'm not about to claim that I am remarkably resistant to the notion.)

Posted by: CGHill at 7:17 AM on 16 January 2007