Influences of Time Perspective on Impulsive Purchase Tendency
Seoungsoo Lee, Eugene Song
What make consumers act on impulse? Impulsive buying is a topic of interest not only to academic researchers but also to the people in the industry who can gain from bigger sales volume and to the consumer advocacy groups who regard impulse buying as an undesirable outcome from the excessive consumerism. While there are discrepancies in the definition of concept, generally speaking, impulsive buying is an unplanned and sudden purchase involving some urges, pleasures, and excitements (Rook, 1987).
Previous research on this topic investigated consumers’ internal and external factors influencing the cognitive and emotional aspects of impulse buying. One stream of research focused on the cognitive aspects of impulse buying and emphasized the lack of planning and consideration before the purchase. Another aspect of impulse buying is that emotional factors are involved in the process (e.g., Beatty & Ferrell, 1998; Rook, 1987; Rook & Gardner, 1993; Wood, 1998) and it has been claimed that the internal stimuli such as urge, pleasure, and excitement, happening at the time of purchase bring impulse buying. In sum, it seems logical to consider both cognitive and emotional aspects as underlying factors influencing impulse buying tendency, but most research limitedly measured the cognitive aspect of unplanning (Cobb & Hoyer, 1986) or the emotional impulses (Rook, 1987), measured the impulse buying as a whole without distinguishing both (Beatty & Ferrell, 1998), or measured both external and internal aspects mixed together (Yeom & Kim, 2002). Thus, in the current study, cognitive and emotional aspects of the impulse buying are treated separately to determine each factor’s influences, respectively.
Another less investigated area in impulse buying literature is the relationship between consumers’ time orientation and their tendency for impulse buying. Time plays a central role in human life and the concept of how people perceive time, time perspective or time orientation, has been thought to be crucial in their cognition, emotion, and behaviors. In particular, Zimbardo and his colleagues (e.g., Keough, Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999; Zimbardo, Keough, & Boyd, 1997) conceptualized time perspective as “the often nonconcious process whereby the continual flows of personal and social experiences are assigned in temporal categories that help to give order, coherence, and meaning to those events” (p. 1271). People use past, present, and future as time frames to form expectations and goals. Thus, time perspective affects a person’s attention, cognition, decision, and behaviors in a subtle, but crucial way (Zimbardo, 1988).
Mischel (1974)’s Delay-of-gratification paradigm provides insightful explanations for the relationship between the time perspective and impulsive behaviors. Mischel and his colleagues (1974; 1989) compared the outcomes between affect-based and cognitive-based values in choice situations and found that the affect-based values were discounted much more sharply over time than the cognitive-based values. This finding implies that, for example, to decide whether or not to have a chocolate for dessert, satisfaction from eating a chocolate (emotional value) is usually more important than the possibility of gaining weight (cognitive value) in this decision making. However, if the decision is whether to have it or not one month later, (decision delayed for one month), concerns for possible weight gain count much more importantly than satisfaction.
Decision making based on cognition compared to emotion tends to be more myopic and make people focus more on the present than the future. Previous studies support the argument that consumers’ time perspective affects their tendency for impulsive buying and planning and preparation are two crucial factors determining the occurrence of impulse buying. Based on these logics, two hypotheses are proposed. H1: Present time perspective would be positively related with both (a) cognitive and (b) emotional impulse buying tendencies. H2: Future oriented time perspective would be negatively related with cognitive impulse buying tendency.
An empirical study was performed to investigate the influences of consumers’ time perspectives on their tendency of engaging in impulsive buying using college students samples in Korea. Ninety four male (45%) and 114 female students (55%) participated in a paper and pencil survey for exchange of class credits. Participants age ranged from 18 to 28 with the average age of 22 years old (SD = 2.2). Participants include 32 freshmen (15%), 65 sophomores (31%), 72 third years (35%) and 37 seniors (18%). To measure the time perspective of research participants, 56-item Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (Zimbardo & Boyd, 2008) was used. The inventory consists of 10- Past negative, 9- Past positive, 15-Present hedonistic, 9-Present fatalistic, and 13-Future orientation items. Since the current study was not interested in the relationship between the past time perspective and the tendency for impulsive buying, items measuring past time perspective were removed from the survey. Thus, total of 37-item questions was translated into Korean and measured on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from very uncharacteristic (1) to very characteristic (7). The original 20-item scale developed by Verplanken and Aarts (1999) was translated into Korean and used to measure the impulsive buying tendency. The scale consists of 10 items designed to measure cognitive tendency for impulsive buying and emotional tendency for impulsive buying, respectively. Participants responded to questions on the 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from very unlikely (1) to very likely (7).
The analyses of data showed supported for hypotheses. Hypothesis 1 posited that the present time orientation would be positively related with emotional impulsive tendency. The result supported Hypothesis 1. Present hedonistic time perspective-Emotional impulsive buying tendency path (t=4.649, p<.001), Present fatalistic time perspective-Cognitive impulsive buying tendency path (t=2.144, p<.05), Present fatalistic time perspective-Emotional impulsive buying tendency path (t=2.144, p<.05) were all statistically significant while Present hedonistic time perspective-Cognitive impulsive buying tendency path was marginally significant (t=1.793, p<.1).
Hypothesis 2 expected that the future time perspective would be negatively related with cognitive impulsive buying tendency and was also supported. The results showed that the stronger the future time perspective, the consumers are more likely to be impulsive due to the lack of cognitive consideration, but their emotional impulsive buying tendency would not be influenced. The result showed that Future time perspective-Cognitive impulse buying tendency path was statistically significant (t=-5.980, p<.001), but Future time perspective – Emotional impulsive buying tendency path was not (t=-650, ns.). Lastly, theoretical and practical implications for impulse buying discussed based on the results.
Keywords: Time perspective, Impulsive buying, ZTPI, Delay-of-gratification paradigm, Future oriented time perspective