How do consumers estimate a good time?

March 17, 2011

Consumers estimate they'll spend more time enjoying activities when the tasks are broken down into components, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. But using the same process for an unpleasant event decreases time estimates.

"It has been well established that predicted consumption time plays a central role in consumers' evaluations and purchase decisions," write authors Claire I. Tsai and Min Zhao (both University of Toronto). "If foresee spending a lot of time using a product or service (such as gym membership or ), they are more likely to purchase it."

In three experiments with 500 participants the authors found that consumers' predicted consumption time was influenced by their assessment of the consumption experience (positive or negative) and the way the experience was represented. "Unpacking a pleasurable event into several subactivities increases the time consumers expect to spend on the event," the authors write.

When consumers face an unpleasant event, the more constituent components they consider, the greater displeasure they expect. "People have a lay belief that they will spend more time on pleasant events than unpleasant ones, so the changes in predicted enjoyment or displeasure caused by unpacking systematically influence the amount of time consumers expect to spend using a product or service," the authors write.

In one experiment, the researchers asked participants to predict how much time they would spend on an overarching event—attending social activities throughout a weekend. The event consisted of a blind date, a birthday party, and a phone conversation. The weekend was described as pleasant or unpleasant and it was presented either in one paragraph or three bullet points. Half the participants made a single time estimate for the overarching event, and the rest made separate time estimates for the individual components.

"When the event was described as pleasant, unpacking increased the predicted enjoyment, which in turn increased predicted consumption time," the authors write. "However, when the event was described as unpleasant, unpacking increased the predicted displeasure and thus reduced time estimates."

Explore further: Remember that time? New study demystifies consumer memory

More information: Claire I. Tsai and Min Zhao. "Predicting Consumption Time: The Role of Event Valence and Unpacking." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2011.

Related Stories

Remember that time? New study demystifies consumer memory

January 26, 2009

If a vacation starts out bad and gets better, you'll have a more positive memory than if it starts out good and gets worse—if you're asked about it right afterward, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Consumer confidence: When our choices makes the most sense

May 18, 2010

Why do we feel confident about some choices while we question others? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, it's a combination of how easy the choice seems and whether we're thinking concretely or ...

Recommended for you

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.