When time has a will of its own, powerless consumers don't have the will to wait

Oct 15, 2013

When consumers assign human characteristics to time, it makes it more difficult to wait for things (especially for people who don't feel powerful), according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Consumers often choose between a readily available product and a version of the product that is superior, but requires a wait time. (Should I buy an iPad now or wait for the newer version?) If wait time is perceived to have human such as a will and intentions, may show less patience," write authors Frank May and Ashwani Monga (both University of South Carolina).

The authors call this tendency to assign time humanlike mental states "time anthropomorphism" (thinking that time has intentions or a will of its own). Historical personifications of time such as "Father Time" and phrases such as "killing time" tend to make people think of time as a humanlike agent that must be dealt with.

The authors conducted five studies on the personification of time, examining how consumer feelings of power affected their reactions to wait times. In the first study, grocery store shoppers were offered a choice between a $5 valid immediately and a $10 gift certificate valid after one week. Customers who scored high on time anthropomorphism and low on power were less likely to choose the $10 gift certificate. In other studies, participants chose between regular and expedited product shipping, and between inferior and superior versions of a product.

The authors found that assigning human characteristics to time makes wait times seem even more oppressive, especially for those who think of themselves as powerless rather than powerful.

"Consumer patience might depend on their natural tendency to assign human characteristics to time, even when real money is at stake," the authors write. "Moreover, subtle variations in language (e.g., "Mr. Tyme" instead of "time") can be employed to induce time and influence patience."

Explore further: Waiting actually makes people more patient, study finds

More information: Frank May and Ashwani Monga. When Time Has a Will of Its Own, the Powerless Don't Have the Will to Wait: Anthropomorphism of Time Can Decrease Patience." Journal of Consumer Research: February 2014.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What makes telenovelas so popular?

Oct 15, 2013

A particular type of consumer enjoys stories with plots, characters, and imagery that allow them to get lost in the narrative, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Recommended for you

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

11 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Which foods may cost you more due to Calif. drought

With California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, grocery shoppers across the country can expect to see a short supply of certain fruits and vegetables in stores, and to pay higher prices ...

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...