Excuse Driven Present Bias

Abstract

In a laboratory experiment, we test the hypothesis that people behave in more present-biased ways when they can excuse such behavior. Specifically, whether they use the presence of risk to justify working less immediately, while not using it as a justification to work more immediately. In our designs, subjects choose whether they prefer doing tasks earlier or later. We randomize both whether a potential excuse is available (in the form of risk), as well as whether the decision is between immediate and future work, or between future and even later work. We expect that excuses will be applied asymmetrically for trade-offs involving immediate work: they will be used when they ‘justify’ working less immediately, but not to ‘justify’ working more immediately. Moreover, we expect that this asymmetry will either not be present or substantially reduced for choices involving only future work.