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On Intertemporal Selfishness: How the Perceived Instability of Identity Underlies Impatient Consumption


  • Daniel M. Bartels
  • Oleg Urminsky


How does the anticipated connectedness between one's current and future identity help explain impatience in intertemporal preferences? The less consumers are closely connected psychologically to their future selves, the less willing they will be to forgo immediate benefits in order to ensure larger deferred benefits to be received by that future self. When consumers' measured or manipulated sense of continuity with their future selves is lower, they accept smaller-sooner rewards, wait less in order to save money on a purchase, require a larger premium to delay receiving a gift card, and have lower long-term discount rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel M. Bartels & Oleg Urminsky, 2011. "On Intertemporal Selfishness: How the Perceived Instability of Identity Underlies Impatient Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 182-198.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jconrs:doi:10.1086/658339
    DOI: 10.1086/658339

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    Cited by:

    1. Hengchen Dai & Katherine L. Milkman & Jason Riis, 2014. "The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(10), pages 2563-2582, October.
    2. repec:cup:judgdm:v:7:y:2012:i:4:p:373-382 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Michael T Bixter & Samantha L McMichael & Cameron J Bunker & Robert Mark Adelman & Morris A Okun & Kevin J Grimm & Oliver Graudejus & Virginia S Y Kwan, 2020. "A test of a triadic conceptualization of future self-identification," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(11), pages 1-39, November.
    4. Duckworth, Angela L. & Gross, James J., 2020. "Behavior change," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 161(S), pages 39-49.
    5. Stacie F. Waites & Adam Farmer & Carol L. Esmark Jones, 2021. "Building toward a solid foundation: The effect of thinking concretely about the future," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 254-273, March.
    6. Mendonça, Francisco V. & Catalão-Lopes, Margarida & Marinho, Rui Tato & Figueira, José Rui, 2020. "Improving medical decision-making with a management science game theory approach to liver transplantation," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    7. Koo, Minjung & Dai, Hengchen & Mai, Ke Michael & Song, Camilla Eunyoung, 2020. "Anticipated temporal landmarks undermine motivation for continued goal pursuit," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 142-157.
    8. Davide Pietroni & Sibylla Verdi Hughes, 2016. "Nudge to the future: capitalizing on illusory superiority bias to mitigate temporal discounting," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 15(2), pages 247-264, November.
    9. Lades, Leonhard K., 2014. "Impulsive consumption and reflexive thought: Nudging ethical consumer behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 114-128.
    10. Michael P. Keane & Susan Thorp, 2016. "Complex Decision Making: The Roles of Cognitive Limitations, Cognitive Decline and Ageing," Economics Papers 2016-W10, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    11. Florence Ettlin & Ralph Hertwig, 2012. "Back or to the future? Preferences of time travelers," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(4), pages 373-382, July.
    12. Hal E. Hershfield & Stephen Shu & Shlomo Benartzi, 2020. "Temporal Reframing and Participation in a Savings Program: A Field Experiment," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(6), pages 1039-1051, November.
    13. Sarah Lord Ferguson & Pierre Berthon, 2022. "A renewable resource model of health decision-making: insights to improve health marketing," AMS Review, Springer;Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 12(1), pages 71-84, June.
    14. Roberts, Annabelle R. & Fishbach, Ayelet, 2020. "When wanting closure reduces patients’ patience," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 161(S), pages 85-94.
    15. Leonhard K. Lades, 2012. "Impulsive Consumption and Reflexive Thought: Nudging Ethical Consumer Behavior," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-03, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    16. Keane, M.P. & Thorp, S., 2016. "Complex Decision Making," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, in: Piggott, John & Woodland, Alan (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 661-709, Elsevier.
    17. Da Silva, Sergio & De Faveri, Dinorá & Correa, Ana & Matsushita, Raul, 2017. "Social preferences, financial literacy and intertemporal choice," MPRA Paper 79535, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Kovács, Kármen, 2020. "A jelen felé torzított preferenciák. A türelmetlenségből eredő fogyasztási döntések okai, megnyilvánulásai és következményei [The causes, manifestations and consequences of consumption decisions re," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(1), pages 31-53.
    19. Quentin André & Ziv Carmon & Klaus Wertenbroch & Alia Crum & Douglas Frank & William Goldstein & Joel Huber & Leaf Boven & Bernd Weber & Haiyang Yang, 2018. "Consumer Choice and Autonomy in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data," Customer Needs and Solutions, Springer;Institute for Sustainable Innovation and Growth (iSIG), vol. 5(1), pages 28-37, March.
    20. Hershfield, Hal E. & Cohen, Taya R. & Thompson, Leigh, 2012. "Short horizons and tempting situations: Lack of continuity to our future selves leads to unethical decision making and behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 117(2), pages 298-310.

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