On the pursuit of multiple goals with different deadlines.

This article presents a theory of how people prioritize their time when pursuing goals with different deadlines. Although progress has been made in understanding the dynamics of multiple-goal pursuit, theory in this area only addresses cases where the goals have the same deadline. We rectify this issue by integrating the multiple-goal pursuit model—a formal theory of multiple goal pursuit—with theories of intertemporal motivation and choice. We examine the ability of four computational models derived from this general theory to account for participants’ choices across four experiments. The models make different assumptions about how people determine the valence of prioritizing a goal (i.e., by monitoring distance to goal or time pressure), and whether the goal is subject to temporal discounting. In each experiment, participants performed a task requiring them to pursue two goals. Experiments 1 and 2 manipulated deadline and distance; Experiment 3 manipulated deadline and time pressure; Experiment 4 manipulated all three factors. Counter to the predictions of existing theory, participants generally prioritized the goal with the shorter deadline. We also observed weak, but positive effects of distance on prioritization (Experiment 2) and nonlinear effects of time pressure (Experiment 3). The model that best explained participants’ decisions assumed that valence is determined by time pressure and the expected utility of a goal is subject to temporal discounting. This new model broadens the range of phenomena that can be accounted for within a single theory of multiple-goal pursuit, and improves our understanding of the interface between motivation and decision making. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)