University of Liverpool psychologist Minna Lyons and Liverpool Hope University psychologist Holly Rice suggested that people who score high on “avoidant” procrastination (meaning they avoid starting a task) and who are also high on psychopathy put things off so that they can avoid receiving negative feedback about their performance. It’s also possible that their impulsivity also leads them to become distracted, so that the pleasures of the moment outweigh the demands of the future.

People also may procrastinate as a form of passive aggressiveness against others. By making others wait, you cause them discomfort if not outright inconvenience. You don’t really want to clean out the refrigerator, but if your roommate or partner is going to insist that you need to, then you’ll do it in your own sweet time. Another reason that we procrastinate is that we say “yes” to requests just to please others. Unfortunately, too many “yesses” can lead you to be late in coming through on at least some of thos promises.

Into psychology’s lore about how people use, or misuse, their time comes a new concept- that of “pre-crastination.” Pennsylvania State University psychologists David Rosenbaum, Lanyun Gong, and Cory Adam Potts came across a serendipitous finding while investigating the ways that people walk and reach. They designed an experiment in which participants would be asked to make what they thought would be the easier choice of either moving a heavy bucket a short distance or a light bucket a long distance to a specified end point.  As a check of the study’s method, they first carried out a set of studies with buckets of the same weight. Participants could choose either to pick up the bucket that was closer to them but farther from the target point, or farther from themselves and closer to the target point.