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The Best Time To Ask Someone For A Favor

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  • Pat Neuman
    -- Excerpt: people tend to underestimate how long it will take to finish a task. The new study also suggests people don t understand the competition for
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2005
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      -- Excerpt:

      "people tend to underestimate how long it will take to finish a task.
      The new study also suggests people "don't understand the competition
      for their time from other things they need to do", says Zauberman."

      --- In nhnenews@yahoogroups.com,

      TIME IN THE FUTURE SEEMS TO GO FURTHER
      By Maggie McKee
      New Scientist
      February 10, 2005

      http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn6998

      The best time to ask someone for a favour is at least several weeks in
      advance, a new study suggests. The research finds that people
      consistently over-commit because they expect to have more time in the
      future than they do right now.

      Previous studies have shown that people generally "value things less
      in the future than now", says Gal Zauberman, a consumer-behaviour
      researcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, US. For
      example, many people prefer to pay for something in a week's time
      rather than today -- even if it costs slightly more.

      Now, Zauberman and colleague John Lynch at Duke University in Durham,
      North Carolina, have found that this tendency is even stronger for
      time than for money.

      "When asked to do something far in the future, we usually say 'yes'.
      Sure, I'll be happy to help you write a paper or move apartments,"
      Zauberman told New Scientist. "People always like to delay things, but
      they are more optimistic about changes in time than in money."

      Time in a month

      The researchers came to their conclusions after giving groups of
      students a range of questionnaires. In one questionnaire, for example,
      the students were asked how much spare time and spare money they had
      that day and how much they expected to have in a month. The students
      believed both resources would be more available in a month's time, but
      they believed more strongly that they would have more time in the future.

      That suggests people gauge their financial situations better than
      their schedules. "Barring some change in employment or family status,
      supply and demand of money are relatively constant over time, and
      people are aware of that," the researchers report.

      Zauberman says the perception of a surplus resource, or "slack",
      determines our propensity to delay things.

      Previous research provides a hint about this time perception -- people
      tend to underestimate how long it will take to finish a task. The new
      study also suggests people "don't understand the competition for their
      time from other things they need to do", says Zauberman.

      He would like to study how people can be taught to realise they will
      be just as busy in the future as they are today. But in the meantime,
      he says: "If you want to get people to commit to things or to help you
      in a charity organisation -- it's always better to ask for the future."

      Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (vol
      134, p 23)

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