What is the opposite of “putting everything off until later”? Well, “do everything right away”. This is prechristening. Everything has to be achieved… even if it’s urgent.
In 2014, Dr. David Rosenbaum’s team from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) conducted an experiment with 257 students: they had to follow a route to bring water to a given location. A bucket of water near the start line and a bucket of water at the finish line are clearly visible. Unsurprisingly, the team found that most students chose the first bucket they could pick up, even if it meant carrying it all the way.
The researchers named this behavior precrastination because it is the opposite of procrastination, which consists of delaying the moment of accomplishing a task as long as possible. Until then it was thought that an “intelligent” organism chose to minimize its energy expenditure! However, the choice of the first bucket imposes additional effort.
Wish to finish soon
Their results: Students acted this way to get the impression they were completing the requested task faster! The authors suggest that this phenomenon is linked to the way we manage our working memory. By quickly reaching an intermediate goal, this memory can be eased, even at the cost of additional physical effort. And it’s not specific to humans: this basic behavior also works… on pigeons, too!
Interviewed by the BBC in 2019, Dr. Rosenbaum says that today’s managers agree that asking everything to be done as quickly as possible is not always ideal! In our age where orders push us to run around like headless chickens, it would be good to scientifically demonstrate that precipitation mainly leads to unnecessary waste of energy.
Source: Psychological Science, 2014