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Executive summary of “How missed temporal deadlines influence consumption behavior”
Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 31, Issue 5
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in tototo take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present.
Most consumer decision-making is dictated to a large degree by time and acknowledged as a scarce resource in today’s world. Pressures created through time constraints invariably mean that people are forced to prioritize certain activities over others. It has been assumed that people largely focus on the task deemed most important. But precisely how temporal deadlines influence consumer resolution of this dilemma is yet to be comprehensively researched.
Vallen et al. advocate a view that time constraints can have a different impact on consumer behavior. More precisely, it is purported that the deadline serves as a “reference point” and that being early or late in relation to this time will determine how people usually respond. Evidence suggests that progression toward attaining a specific objective tends to generate positive feelings. This, consequently, inspires even greater motivation to achieve the outcome in question. Similar studies have found that people aiming to accomplish a certain goal are prone to intensify their efforts as it nears.
The current study explores this tendency further and also considers how individuals might behave if they miss the deadline. In general, negative affect arises in these circumstances. Several studies report that people often respond by engaging in actions that can transform their mood into a positive state. This shifts the focus from the initial goal to a desire for more instant gratification. Further, instead of “self-regulation” strategies like reducing lateness, the onus is on controlling affect through such as consumption activities. It has been found by many scholars that consumption is frequently used in response to negative affect and that individuals will typically consume “unhealthy or hedonic” foods in larger than normal quantities in these circumstances.
Further support for this belief is provided by what has been termed the “what the hell” effect. This refers to consumption situations where people might choose to deliberately indulge in what is essentially restricted or forbidden once a specific goal has been missed. Individuals on diets or refraining from alcohol consumption are examples of this type. However, the authors point out a key difference, in that such actions increase rather than lower negative feelings because of the perceived failure involved. It is additionally supposed that the outcomes in this study will differ because the initial objective is still live.
In the first of two experiments, 116 undergraduates from a large college in Northeast USA were recruited. Females accounted for 55 per cent of subjects, whose age ranged from 19 to 45 years. Respondents were asked to consider a scenario where they were heading for a class scheduled for 2.00 p.m. when they suddenly developed a yearning for a cup of coffee or another type of drink. They were informed that purchasing the beverage would make them late for class. Subjects were allocated to either a penalty or no penalty condition where late arrival was concerned. The penalty condition involved being recorded as late on the class register. No incentives were given for early arrival.
The task was to specify the likelihood of buying the drink at various points in time from 20 minutes before the class start time to 20 minutes after. Using the same timeframe, participants also had to indicate the point at which they regarded themselves as being late for the lesson. Questions additionally required indicating the point when they would abandon the objective of arriving in class on time or when they would not go at all because they considered it to be too late to attend.
It was predicted by Vallen et al. that the probability of engaging in consumption is lower prior to the deadline and increases once it has been missed and continues to exceed. This study confirmed the anticipated pattern. Penalty was also found to be significant, in that the predicted behavior was even likelier in the condition where subjects were penalized for arriving late. This was attributed to the probability that negative affect is even greater under these conditions. Previous work had found gender to impact on perceptions of time and lateness but this was not apparent here.
The second study built on the first by investigating how lateness influences consumption choice. Earlier research had shown that individuals were likely to select “highly indulgent” foods as a means to address negative emotions. Being either on-time or late for the class was the different scenario presented in this study. Subjects were then asked to decide whether or not to purchase a beverage from the menu provided. The options were Hose Blend Coffee, Creamy Cappucino and Decadent Chocolate Latte, included following a pretest which confirmed the beverages differed in their levels of perceived indulgence.
Females represented 55 per cent of the 66 undergraduate participants, who were 18-21 years old. Subjects were assigned to one condition where they would arrive on-time for the class or another where they would be 10 minutes late. There were no respective rewards or penalties for arriving early or late, respectively. Purchasing one of the drinks would take an extra 4 minutes. Responses to statements were used to measure tendency to regulate affect, and participants were asked to indicate what they perceived as being late and reveal how frequent they usually drank coffee.
Analysis here revealed that individuals were less likely to select the more indulgent option when late if their tendency to regulate affect was low. But as affect regulation grows, so does the likelihood that these indulgent choices would be made. In the not-late condition, the probability of choosing the two most indulgent options decreased substantially. To support these hypothetical choices, researchers conducted a small survey involving customers entering a university café. The survey focused on those facing an imminent deadline, and it was observed that individuals running late ordered higher calorie choices compared to those who were on schedule.
Because time evidently can steer individuals toward consuming indulgent food and drink, this has implications for health and well-being. Research shows that up to a fifth of the USA population consider themselves to be regularly behind schedule and could be part of the reason why consumption of fast-food and other less-healthy choices remains high. Vallen et al. believe that the knowledge of the psychological basis for food choices might enable marketers to develop ways of persuading such individuals to eat more healthily. One suggestion is to raise awareness of consuming indulgent foods and propose other means of regulating affect. The notion of promoting healthier forms of indulgences in outlets frequented by busy consumers is proposed.
Future research might consider whether self-imposed deadlines differently impact on consumption behavior and whether shopping or other forms of behavior serve to address negative emotions. Another suggestion is to consider the impact when penalties are framed positively rather than negatively and how consumers might react if penalties are graded in severity to reflect the degree of lateness. The authors, furthermore, propose examining how individual characteristics such as being strongly oriented toward success shape efforts toward goal attainment. Investigating the possible relevance of other types of distance like spatial or social to the achievement of a certain outcome is an additional research possibility.
To read the full article enter 10.1108/JCM-05-2014-0984 into your search engine.
(A précis of the article “How missed temporal deadlines influence consumption behavior”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)