Across five studies (N = 4151), we investigate a novel barrier that prevents people from making personally beneficial requests: the overestimation of self-presentation costs. Even when deadlines are easily adjustable, people are less likely to request an extension and submit lower quality work when perceived self-presentation costs are higher—such as when the request is visible to a supervisor (Study 1a). Specifically, people are less likely to request an extension when they are concerned with appearing incompetent (Study 2). Yet, other people do not negatively respond to deadline extension requests (Study 1b). Attesting to the importance of self-presentation concerns in shaping extension request behaviors, formal policies that reduce self-presentation concerns increase requests in both online (Study 3) and in-person (Study 4) settings. These findings highlight a novel psychological barrier that prevents people from requesting resources that could increase their performance and more effectively manage their deadlines.
Full article is available on Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (JESP.)