Unstuck from the Concrete: Carryover Effects of Abstract Mindsets in Intertemporal Preferences

Prior research has demonstrated that individuals show decreasing levels of impatience as the delay of consumption gets longer (i.e., present-bias). We examine the psychological underpinnings of such present-biased preferences by conceptualizing timing decisions as part of a series of judgments. We propose that shifts in the abstractness of processing (focusing on details vs. broad aspects) triggered by aspects of an earlier (related or unrelated) decision systematically influence the degree of present-bias in subsequent decisions. The results of five studies show that the processing mindset (concrete vs. abstract) evoked in previous related and unrelated decisions influences the level of construal evoked in subsequent decisions and moderates the extent of present-bias without changes in affect. We further show the default mindset is concrete (displaying high present-bias) and thus the effect of construal is eliminated when the subsequent intertemporal task is inherently more abstract.

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APA-Format Citation

Malkoc, S. A., Zauberman, G., & Bettman, J. R. (2010). Unstuck from the concrete: Carryover effects of abstract mindsets in intertemporal preferences. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes113(2), 112-126.