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Vladimir_Nesov comments on How to Beat Procrastination - Less Wrong

156 Post author: lukeprog 05 February 2011 06:49PM

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Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 05 February 2011 10:48:53PM *  8 points [-]

Edit: Apparently not actually pseudomath, only looks like it, due to undefined scale and meaning of parameters. Although still contains a simplification made for rhetorical reasons that makes the formula wrong (see footnote 6).

This leaves us with "the procrastination equation":

I don't believe such pseudomath is a good way of evoking the relevant intuitions, given the downside of being meaningless. Isn't it strictly better to just say is as follows?

These are the factors that influence motivation the most:

  • Expectancy and Value promote motivation.
  • Impulsiveness and Delay decrease motivation.
Comment author: lukeprog 06 February 2011 12:10:54AM 15 points [-]

Using the equation allowed Steel (2010a) to predict fairly accurately the behavior of students in an online course at the University of Minnesota.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 06 February 2011 01:01:54AM *  0 points [-]

Even if there is an interpretation where this does make sense, in your own presentation (in this post) you'd still need to define the terms and their units to turn this into a meaningful hypothesis, and state that it's indeed meaningful, to disambiguate from the rhetorical usage that I suspected in it.

(Correction included in the comment.)

Comment author: lukeprog 06 February 2011 02:25:15AM *  36 points [-]


I am using the equation rhetorically, on purpose. The footnote given immediately after the equation explains that the version in this post is pseudomath, and lists the paper that gives the true equation (and its measurement units) and argues for its validity. I even went to the trouble of uploading a PDF of that paper (and 30+ others) so you can read it yourself:

Steel & Konig (2006). Integrating theories of motivation. Academy of Management Review, 31(4): 889-913.

I do not argue for the truth of any of my claims in this article. That would take a book, not an article. I just list the advice, and leave the arguments about truth and conceptual validity for the footnotes and the references, which I have provided, with great effort.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 06 February 2011 01:03:04AM *  10 points [-]

Isn't the equation just standard expected utility maximization, with hyperbolic discounting? (That is, if Luke hadn't removed the additive constant in the denominator that was in the original equation.)

Comment author: lukeprog 06 February 2011 05:25:55AM 4 points [-]


Comment author: Dorikka 06 February 2011 12:04:28AM *  2 points [-]

I'm not sure whether I agree with you or not. The four terms in the equation don't have nearly as much predictive power as one might hope to obtain from an equation: specifically, we don't really know what units any of the four quantities are measured in.

On the other hand, having an equation does give us marginally more data than your preferred presentation does. At least we know that the relationship looks more like (E)(V)/((I)(D)) as opposed to, say, (E+V)/(I+D), or some such. I do feel that having an equation present (with the appropriate mathematical disclaimers) helps me gain an intuitive understanding of the concept presented.

Edit: Fixed order of operations.

Comment author: lukeprog 06 February 2011 05:26:34AM *  1 point [-]


See here.

Comment author: Dorikka 06 February 2011 06:12:48AM 1 point [-]

I now understand. Thanks.

Comment author: Kevin 06 February 2011 01:25:07PM 2 points [-]

This is still +8 even though the objection is wrong and lukeprog's article is awesome?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 06 February 2011 01:38:37PM 4 points [-]

The objection is not wrong, it's only partially wrong in that the pseudomath was inspired by correct math and not just a positive/negative influence list.