Don’t mortgage present ‘enriching’ choices to future woes: study

September 16th, 2008 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 16 (IANS) Some people shun any kind of indulgence as sheer extravagance and prefer to fulfill pressing obligations or paying off debts. Conversely, many people have no trouble buying luxury items or relaxing vacations. Others suffer pangs of conscience if they chance to spend on anything they don’t consider a necessity.

Understanding this can help marketers reach tough customers. “In addition to possibly undermining their own happiness, (such) consumers constitute a substantial barrier for luxury goods marketers,” say Kelly L. Haws of the Texas A&M University and Cait Poynor of the University of Pittsburgh.

Writing in the December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, they described people who are so fixated on the future that they miss the present as “hyperopic”. The authors found that, contrary to popular perception, hyperopia is distinct from self-control.

“Past research characterises behaviour as hyperopic if it involves the choice of a restrictive or necessity option over an indulgent but potentially life-enriching choice,” explained the authors.

“For example, a consumer might choose to study rather than go on a trip with friends over spring break or might use a windfall to pay bills rather than to provide themselves with personally rewarding experiences.”

The researchers conducted three studies on hyperopia. First, they measured hyperopia and self-control and found that the two did not necessarily correlate.

After identifying levels of hyperopia and self-control, participants rated products according to whether they thought they were luxuries or necessities. People with high hyperopic ratings thought more products were luxuries than other participants.

In the next study, participants were asked to consider an “indulgence goal” - like focusing on enjoying their lives more. In a third study, participants viewed different BMW ads - some abstract and some concrete in the product description.

They were asked about the likelihood of purchasing the product and their perceptions of the product as a long-term investment. High hyperopics were not more likely overall to see the BMW as an investment, but the more abstract ad inspired more of them to do so, and inspired some of them to say they intended to buy it.

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