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Ch. 7 - The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control 
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Post Ch. 7 - The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control
Ch. 7 - The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control



Fri May 28, 2010 6:06 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control
I'm coming to see why realiz, the other person who has been commenting on this book, dislikes Ariely's assumptions about what is rational. That word doesn't seem to mean only what Ariely decides it means in a given situation. For example, in this chapter, Ariely tells us about his work on procrastination. Obviously, if we're asked when the best time is to get something done, we are going to answer with our rational minds and say "now" rather than "later." Then why do we so often not follow through? Because of irrational influences, Ariely says. When we're being lazy, we're letting emotions and feelings override our sense of what we should be doing, according to our own previous resolution. So far, fine. Ariely then describes an experiment in which his students are given 3 choices to commit to regarding when they'll turn in their three papers. Ariely identifies the most rational choice as the one where they can, if they choose, turn them all in at the end of the semester. They can turn them in at regular intervals under this option, but also they can wait until the end, and if they do they won't be penalized. With the other options, they would incur a penalty if they failed to turn them in by the set intervals they'd agreed to.

Why is the first option the rational one? Couldn't a better case be made for the rationality of the option--actually chosen by the most students in the class--where they commit to a schedule of turning in the papers? It might be because of the distraction of irrationality that we tend to procrastinate in the first place, but since everyone in the world does it, wouldn't the smartest, i.e., most rational, people have a plan to combat their tendency to procrastinate?

The rationality of the students who self-imposed the schedule of papers is reinforced by the finding that their group received the highest grades on the papers.

Ariely then proposes that we could benefit from applying other "pre-commitment" measures to areas of our lives, such as health care. This is a good idea. It shows how we can counter our irrational impulses through planning, which is itself a mark of rationality. Ariely just doesn't put it that way.


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Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:27 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control
DWill, You had much the same thoughts on this chapter as I did.

I also think that you cannot judge the rationality of a thought process just by the outcome. I think Ariely has his hypothesis and concludes that his experiments support this without questioning the variables. Can you conclude that someone acted irrationally without examining their thought process? I think some very rational thought processes could bring about very irrational decisions, especially from an observation perspective, especially given that some of us are really, really good at rationalizing...almost as good as we are at procrastinating. Sometimes the best thing to do is to not bother rationalizing at all but just do what your mother told you you should do.



Thu Jun 24, 2010 3:08 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control
realiz wrote:
DWill, You had much the same thoughts on this chapter as I did.

I also think that you cannot judge the rationality of a thought process just by the outcome. I think Ariely has his hypothesis and concludes that his experiments support this without questioning the variables. Can you conclude that someone acted irrationally without examining their thought process? I think some very rational thought processes could bring about very irrational decisions, especially from an observation perspective, especially given that some of us are really, really good at rationalizing...almost as good as we are at procrastinating. Sometimes the best thing to do is to not bother rationalizing at all but just do what your mother told you you should do.

I agree that the outcome, the success/failure of the decision, doesn't depend on whether we think we were rational in taking the decision. More than likely, if we judge the outcome as good, we'll credit ourselves with a rational decision! I think this is natural and that we should not always put first what we think are the most rational criteria. What about the intuitive/emotional factor? Should we disregard that? To me, if we did, that would not be rational, but I think I use a different definition of the word than Ariely does. If you look at Gladwell's book, Blink, which is about "thinking without thinking," you also see that conscious ratiocination doesn't always produce the best results.

I think of the time when we bought our house. If we'd looked at the list of pros and cons, we'd never have bought the house, the cons so outweighed the pros, at least numerically. But there was something about the place that made it okay, a sense we had about it that was hard to define rationally, and that tipped the balance.

Yes, we're all expert rationalizers, meaning that we usually want to cover up the emotional or automatic responses that lead to our decisions. To a certain extent, during the 1960s young people tried to dethrone rationality; that was partly what the revolution was about.


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Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:43 pm
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