Creating Impatience

Many of us have a general tendency towards impatience. This means we overweight the importance of the present over the future. It isn’t challenging to think of examples of this. People consume calories that their future selves will regret. They drink and smoke now gaining modest pleasure only to suffer massive pain later as a consequence.

There are many papers that investigate what factors generate more impatience. One such paper goes by the fantastic title. “Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience In Intertemporal Choice”. (I’m a big fan of interesting hooks — marketing academics should use them more.) They suggest that “exposure to “hot stimuli” may instigate general impatience in intertemporal choice”, (Van den Bergh, Dewitte, and Warlop, 2008, page 86). Hot stimuli being those that generate strong sensory based reactions in us: e.g., stimuli related to sex, food, drugs.

The authors consider what drives impatience in heterosexual men. Their theory is that hot stimuli drive impatience beyond the actual area to which the stimuli relates. They showed the young men pictures of clothed women in sexually suggestive poses and found that the men’s financial discount rates increased. The young men valued the present much more relative to the future in a financial decision after looking at the pictures of the women. (They were compared to young men who saw a neutral landscape stimuli). The authors repeated the studies to rule out alternative explanations. For example, that the presence of people of any gender, or in any pose, in a picture induces impatience.

They also investigated who was most impacted by the effect. Reassuringly those most sensitive to rewards where the most impacted. Finally, they suggested feelings of being deprived heighten the effect.

The idea of impatience generated by sexual cues transfering to financial decisions is interesting, if controversial. To be honest whatever the paper actually covered the title alone justified publication for me.

Read: Bram Van den Bergh, Siegfried Dewitte, and Luk Warlop (2008), Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience In Intermtemporal Choice, Journal of Consumer Research, 35 (1) Pages 85-97