The Effect of Time Pressure on Performance in Cognitive Tasks
LocationTinbergen Institute (Gustav Mahlerplein 117), Room 1.01
Date and time
August 28, 2020
14:00 - 15:00
We design a new experiment to measure the effect of time pressure on performance in cognitive tasks as well as individual preferences for working under time pressure. The average effect of time pressure on productivity depends on task difficulty. In both easy and hard tasks, time pressure leads participants to work around twice as fast. In the hard task, this increase in speed comes at the cost of a 24 percentage points increase in the failure rate whereas the increase is only 7 percentage points in the easy task. Our within-subject design allows us to look into individual heterogeneity in the ability to perform under time pressure. We find that people who, in a pre-experimental questionnaire, state that they enjoy and are productive under time pressure also perform better and show a stronger preference in our incentivized experiment, indicating that our results partially pick up a stable trait. Our results shed light on the use of time pressure as an incentive device and lay the groundwork for future research into the ability to deal with time pressure as an individual trait that is relevant for education and labor market outcomes.