Research Highlights - June 2018

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In a series of eight studies, both in the lab and in real life, researchers at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. found that free time seems shorter to people when it comes before a task or appointment on their calendar and therefore people get less done during these intervals

The researcher published in the Journal of Consumer Research says, “We seem to take a mental tax out of our time right before an appointment. We figure something might come up, we might need some extra time, even when there’s no need to do that. As a result, we do less with the available time.”

In an online study of 198 people, the Ohio State researchers asked some participants to imagine, “you have a friend coming over to visit in one hour and you are all ready for your friend to come by.” The others were told that they had no plans for the evening.

All participants were asked how many minutes “objectively” they could spend reading during the next hour and how many minutes they “subjectively” felt like they could spend reading during that same hour.

Regardless of whether they had a friend coming by or not, participants said that they objectively had about 50 minutes available to read. Most people didn’t think, even objectively, that they had a full hour to read. People are putting a little ‘just-in-case’ time into their schedules when there is no real reason to do that.

Then, when they were asked how much time, subjectively, they felt they had to read, those with a friend coming by felt that they had about forty minutes. And these results held up in real-life studies as well.

The researchers asked participants recruited online to provide their actual schedules for the next day. Participants indicated when each scheduled task on their calendar would begin and how much time they would need before each task to prepare.

Participants were then offered the opportunity to take part in either a 30-minute or a 45-minute study on that day. The 30-minute study paid $2.50 and the 45-minute study paid twice as much: $5.

For some participants, the study was scheduled in the one hour before they said they had to start getting ready for their next appointment. The others were not scheduled up...

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