The Akrasia Effect: What is it?

The Akrasia Effect

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“Procrastination often causes more pain, regret, and frustration than actually doing the work.” The situation described by the acronym created by Eliezer Yudkowsky above encapsulates the core issue we face on a daily basis: akrasia.
We give any task our full attention, but because we are constantly preoccupied with other tasks, we fail to reach our objective. This phrase, which is known as Akrasia, is one of the biggest problems facing humanity both historically and currently. The “acrasia effect” is a term used by psychologists and human resources specialists to describe this circumstance today. Experts explain the idea in a variety of ways. It would be proper to look at the word’s origin before defining what “Akrasia” is. In ancient Greece, there were philosophical debates that gave rise to the word akrasia. It is stated that this term derives from “will,” which is one of the most fundamental issues that great philosophers like Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle have stressed, despite the fact that this is expressed in the sources as a rumor. “Acrasia” was described by Socrates and Aristotle as “weakness of will brought on by a person knowing what to do but not doing it.” The habit of procrastination, which is stressed the most in today’s personal development books, is a much more limited and simple subject than the concept of akrasia. In the case of akrasia, the person intentionally or unintentionally delays the work that needs to be done for unimportant reasons rather than starting the work right away or finishing it by the deadline. The concept of akrasia has been the subject of research that explores why people tend to put off or overlook simple tasks as well as how this concept manifests itself in our everyday lives. The situation with the akrasia, which appears to be completely meaningless, has not yet been fully resolved, but it is fairly typical. According to the French-American philosopher John Searle, akrasia (weakness of will) is as prevalent in France as wine.




People from all walks of life, from the common people to the famous figures in science and literature, are affected by the Akrasia situation, which appears as a serious problem of will. The great French author Victor Hugo had to devise some extremely radical cures for acrasia. In her memoirs, Hugo’s wife describes the radical action she took in response to the fact that he was unable to fulfill a book order by the end of the year. Hugo gathered all of his clothes that would allow him to leave the house one day, put them in a room, and locked the room when he realized he couldn’t devote himself to the book he needed to write due to frequent invitations from friends, travels, and literary conversations. Hugo, who is only left with a shawl, uses this method to quickly finish his book while giving it his full attention. As can be seen from the anecdote, akrasia is a very dangerous matter of life and will, even for the author of great classics like Hugo. According to some experts, akrasia is a fallacy of human reasoning. Akrasia refers to any circumstance that causes procrastination or a problem with self-control.


Researchers who study akrasia have used the economic concept of “time inconsistency” to describe this circumstance. As a result, the human brain has a tendency to deviate from the behavioral economics cognitive fallacies by placing more weight on small rewards now rather than large rewards later. This is one of the situations we see: The brain concentrates on long-term, significant rewards when it is planning, or in the thinking stage. However, when it acts, the brain finds immediate gratification to be more satisfying. Additionally, a recent test on this topic is important to mention. In the 1960s, educational psychologist Walter Mischel and his team looked at kindergarten students’ propensity for self-control and how it affected their personalities. The main goal of the test was to determine how long and how well 5- and 6-year-old children could resist temptations. The results of this experiment, also referred to as the “Marshmallow Test,” were quite unexpected. Children who exercise self-control during the test and hold out for the promised grand prize rather than eating the treat that was offered to them are more successful and content in their later lives and in interpersonal interactions. As a result, it can be said that the ability to avoid procrastination is a crucial component of life success.




In a small study with his students, Tim Pychyl of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, hypothesized that the main cause of acracia is the unwillingness to begin the intended work. Tim observed that the majority of the study participants said that once they started working, the aforementioned job became simpler. Without a thorough understanding of cognitive dynamics, such as feelings and self-deception, that prevent us from adhering to our plan and automatic coping mechanisms, it is a weakness that cannot be understood or stopped. Research in the field of neuroscience by Antonio Damasio
The conclusions he came to showed that emotions are important in social interactions and decision-making.

The procrastination behavior that causes the acrasia effect has been comprehensively categorized by Tim Pychyl and his team. The taxonomy of procrastination is as follows, per this classification:

*Unpredictable or inevitable delays: These are frequently brought on by an overloaded work schedule.

*Delays due to arousal: This is the circumstance of delaying the intended work while being affected by various notable situations while taking part in the job planning.

Hedonistic procrastination is the act of putting off doing something that would bring you pleasure in favor of the task at hand.

* Delays brought on by severe traumatic events: Delays brought on by the death of a loved one, an accident, a medical condition, or another psychological condition.

*Planned/purposeful postponements: These are usually delays brought on by reviewing various tasks in the work schedule.

*Idiopathic procrastination, also known as irrational procrastination, is the result of unfounded fears and anxieties that one has on their own.


According to Chicago DePaul University psychology professor Joseph Ferrari, the “I’m not in the mood right now” argument is one of the things that contributes to akrasia’s vicious cycle. Ferrari observes that the academy is currently more concerned with managing emotions than with timing. In this regard, Ferrari claims that waiting for the appropriate attitude is a major trap when the necessity of carrying out a planned task at that specific time is disregarded. Additionally, it is claimed that certain emotions are what motivate procrastination in the “I’m not in the mood” mode, which is a sign of an inability to control emotions. These emotions, according to psychologist Fuschia Sirois of the University of Sheffield in England, are fears and anxieties like the fear of disappointment, failure, losing one’s self-esteem, and not being perfect. She emphasizes the significance of coping with these emotions rather than time management.

Akrasia is described as “willful weakness that arises when our emotions dominate our common sense and reason” in another study on the topic. Large-scale akrasia is handled in three different ways. Events like war, terrorism, environmental degradation, ethnic cleansing, arms races, and overpopulation, which includes instances of mass insanity, are the main challenges that large-scale acrasia faces. Akrasia no longer refers to the concept of prioritizing tasks or managing time at this point; rather, it expresses the weakness of our will to resist being imprisoned by our desires and feelings, even though we know that this is wrong. When we are affected by Akrasia, our goals are like those of young children who crave candy right away and fight tooth and nail to get it. Adults’ complexes, blind spots, and character flaws contribute to this. Examples of the akrasia effect include harmful addictions we deal with on a daily basis, toxic relationships that harm us, spending money we know is wrong, and risk-taking behaviors that frequently cost us our lives.

The Akrasia Effect: Combating It


Tie your future business to a certain standard as a first step.


The main message is the same even though the work we do in our daily lives has different qualities. Our willpower is weakened as a result of the pressure we apply to ourselves to meet certain requirements. In this way, relying on our plans and strategies rather than just our will will enable us to avoid falling prey to akrasia. For instance, it would be wise to choose a place without internet or to delete your social media applications from your phone before starting work if you have a social media addiction.


Strategy 2: Strengthen your initial resolve.


The fact that we are unable to begin the work we had planned is one of the most sneaky events that triggers the akrasia effect. Always important is the magic of taking the first step. The fact that there are no pre-written recipes for this is important to know. The most important thing to understand is that starting is always more painful than waiting. The key is to keep doing it until it becomes automatic once you have the determination to begin.


Plan your mission in detail as part of strategy 3.


Open-ended plans for any work before beginning it are frequently the primary causes of akrasia. Studies have shown that the likelihood of completing the planned work significantly increases when the specifics, such as the time and location, are determined. In other words, planning like “I will do sports tomorrow” produces 2-3 times more results than usual compared to “I will do sports for half an hour in the gym tomorrow at 13:00.

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