Does Setting a Time Limit Affect Time Spent?
54 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2023
Date Written: March 7, 2023
New technologies have made it easier than ever before to consume content online. Consumers spend hours browsing social media, playing games, and watching videos. To aid in consumers’ time management, many companies (e.g., TikTok, Instagram, YouTube) have recently introduced the option to set a “time limit” on their platforms. These features ask consumers to select an amount of time after which they would like to receive an alert. But while giving consumers this option may be well intended, how does it actually impact time spent? Contrary to expectations, rather than leading consumers to spend less time on an activity, five pre-registered experiments demonstrate that setting a time limit can have the opposite effect. This occurs because consumers implicitly treat time limits like budgets, perceiving time up to the limit as earmarked for the activity and facilitating such spending. Consequently, setting a time limit (vs. not) can increase time spent. The findings further understanding of the impact of new technologies, how consumers mentally budget time, and the effects of limits. Further, they have clear implications for the use of limits as a time management tool: merely providing the option to set a time limit may be insufficient to protect consumer wellbeing.
Keywords: self-tracking, technology, time management, mental budgets, limits, reference points
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