When should I have it?: the effect of representation and processing concreteness on consumer impatience Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Malkoc, Selin A.
    • Affiliation: Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • Consumers frequently make decisions about when to consume a product and what costs to incur to obtain sooner consumption. Prior research has demonstrated that consumers show decreasing levels of impatience as the length of delay for consumption gets longer (i.e., present-biased preferences or hyperbolic discounting). In this dissertation, I explore the roots of decreasing consumer impatience and identify factors that lead to differential sensitivity to time horizon. In two essays, I show that the concreteness of mental representation and of processing are two possible mechanisms behind present-biased preferences. I hypothesize that present-biased preferences are observed when mental representations and processing are concrete, and that this effect is attenuated when consumers think more abstractly. In essay 1, I examine the role of representational concreteness by making use of two temporal frames (delay and expedite) that differ in their associated degree of concreteness. I show that (1) defer and expedite frames are associated with different patterns of discounting, (2) the two frames are associated with differential levels of outcome concreteness, and (3) this variation in outcome concreteness can explain the difference in present bias. In essay 2, I explore the role of processing concreteness (e.g., focusing on the big picture or on the details) in consumers' present bias. I hypothesize and show that consumers who think more concretely will be more prone to hyperbolic-like discounting compared to those who think abstractly - even when processing concreteness is manipulated using an unrelated task. Taken together, this dissertation provides a better understanding of the psychological mechanisms driving intertemporal preferences in general and present-biased preferences in specific. I examine the cognitive underpinnings of present-biased preferences and use temporal framing (Essay 1) and prior decisions (Essay 2) to establish concreteness of outcomes and processing as potential sources of decreasing impatience. The results reported in this dissertation extend the current theorization in intertemporal choice, temporal framing, mental construal, and sequential decisions. These findings suggest that conceptualizing concreteness at multiple levels helps explain not only hyperbolic discounting, but also adds to the understanding of several related consumer behavior phenomena.
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  • In Copyright
  • Bettman, James
  • Zauberman, Gal
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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