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Auction Fever! How Time Pressure and Social Competition Affect Bidders’ Arousal and Bids in Retail Auctions


  • Adam, Marc T.P.
  • Krämer, Jan
  • Müller, Marius B.


Auction sites on the Internet frequently put bidders under time pressure or highlight the social competition that is inherent to auctions. Both aspects are believed to elicit an exciting shopping experience, which may culminate in auction fever. In two laboratory experiments, we investigate the process of auction fever in retail auctions and demonstrate when and how auction fever affects bidding behavior. In contrast to previous studies, we employ physiological measurements as an objective and continuous assessment of bidders’ arousal in addition to a subjective assessment of bidders’ emotions through psychometric scales. Moreover, we explicitly study the interaction of time pressure and social competition on arousal and bids. We find that bidders’ arousal is increased in high time pressure auctions and that this leads to higher bids in ascending auctions—but only when bidders compete with human opponents. Thus, social competition is the actual driver underlying the auction fever phenomenon. Furthermore, we show that the “joy of winning” is significantly stronger than the “frustration of losing” in ascending auctions. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings for the design of retail auctions.

Suggested Citation

  • Adam, Marc T.P. & Krämer, Jan & Müller, Marius B., 2015. "Auction Fever! How Time Pressure and Social Competition Affect Bidders’ Arousal and Bids in Retail Auctions," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 91(3), pages 468-485.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jouret:v:91:y:2015:i:3:p:468-485
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jretai.2015.01.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

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