The art of the pause

If you could save time in a bottle

Ever wonder why you overcommit yourself — promising to do more things than you’ll ever have time to accomplish? In the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, two scientists tried to figure out this puzzle, by devising a couple of experiments comparing how we commit time and how we commit money. It turns out that we’re much better at predicting how much money we’ll have in the future, probably because money is a tangible asset; time is harder to judge. As the press release for the study notes:

Can people learn to predict future time demands more in line with reality? The authors observe, “It is difficult to learn from feedback that time will not be more abundant in the future. Specific activities vary from day to day, so [people] do not learn from feedback that, in aggregate, total demands are similar.” Money’s “slack pools” are smoother, more equal and more predictable over time.

You can read the entire study itself online here as a PDF.

(Thanks to Lifehacker for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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