The Influence of Time-Interval Descriptions on Goal-Pursuit Decisions
Munichor, N., & LeBoeuf, R. A. The influence of time-interval descriptions on goal-pursuit decisions. Journal of Marketing Research (Forthcoming)
Posted: 21 Jun 2017 Last revised: 5 Oct 2017
Date Written: June 20, 2017
Consumers pursue numerous goals that are linked to particular time frames. Might one’s likelihood of agreeing to pursue a goal fluctuate even if nothing about the goal’s objective features changes, but if instead the only change is in how the time allotted for goal pursuit is described? Seven experiments show that consumers are more likely to agree to pursue goals when the completion interval is described by durations (e.g., “within exactly two weeks from now”) instead of dates (e.g., “between today and November 17”). The findings further show that this pattern arises because dates, which make it easier to retrieve competing obligations falling within the interval, lead people to focus more on the (unenjoyable) goal-pursuit process, whereas durations, which present the interval in isolation, allow people to focus more on the goal’s (beneficial) outcome. These findings suggest that although how a time interval is described seems inconsequential, it has striking effects on goal-pursuit decisions, and therefore has important implications for the marketing of products and actions designed to assist consumers in achieving their goals.
Keywords: goal adoption, goal pursuit, framing, time intervals, process focus, outcome focus, temporal description
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