Beat your brain's stupid hyperbolic discounting


I’ll read it later, first I have to reorder my mp3 file catalog.

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Much more useful, though, discount hyperbarics…

Dear god, my daughter, who is apt to write lists on her arm in sharpie MUST NEVER SEE that tattoo.


App has already been invented. It’s a scheduling program called Above and Beyond. As recommended in the book Getting Things Done. Has been running my life for years. On a desktop PC, however … not sure it has been adapted for smartphones.

I thought that hyperbolic discounting was very much in question and that alternative hypotheses like sub-additive discounting and similarity functions did a better job of explaining data. I’m not sure if it makes a difference to this piece, because “hyperbolic discounting” is just a buzz word here and the main thing is that we make different decisions tomorrow than we do on behalf of our tomorrow selves.

I’ve heard the idea before that if you are deciding whether to accept an invitation a month from now you should ask yourself if you would accept it today (though Harford goes for “next week” in the article). I assumed that the point of it was to get me to accept invitations rather than reject them. I am far more likely to accept an invitation to do something if it is happening in the immediate future than I am to accept one in the more distant future. It’s very interesting to me that this is flipped for other people - that they are more ready to agree to do something on behalf of a future self that is somewhat unpredictable than on behalf of a present self. I’m not sure if Harford is making some very unwarranted assumptions about human behaviour with that suggestion or if I’m just a substantial outlier there.


It’s much more complex than that. There are other psychological experiments which show that when influenced by various factors, people will often choose to do burdensome tasks right now “to get them out of the way”, even when that choice is irrational because they would be less work to do later or might not need to be done at all if postponed.

Procrastination, especially in the form of working on “lower priority” tasks than what you “really” intend to be doing, may be just as much a matter of overcommitting to lesser unpleasant tasks, actually avoiding present-moment pleasure for the sake of imagined satisfaction at getting this or that petty task dealt with.

I’ve also come to realize over the years that my grand and carefully thought-out intentions, the kind of goals we keep procrastinating on, are sometimes completely out of touch with who I really am and with my day-to-day life. Goals can be good, but they can also be a way of separating yourself from being present with what’s actually going on in your life. It’s worth considering that sometimes the big life goals may be the “stupid brain”, and that washing the dishes, taking out the trash, and yes, organizing your MP3s may be what’s really important in making your life livable day by day.


I’ve tried everything. Nothing works for me. All I do is procrastinate. I’m sitting here writing a comment on a blog right now. :frowning:

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I was a little disappointed to find that this was just an ad. I haven’t been a reader of BB since the 2008 election, so I hope that there are some good things to keep me interested.

I opened this in a tab four days ago. I knew I’d get to it eventually.


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