Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business

First Advisor

Ashwani Monga

Second Advisor

Eva Buechel


Patience is important for consumers. It allows consumers to forgo immediate desires and instead reap greater benefits in the future. We can see a conflict between immediate and future benefits in our everyday decisions, such as when we decide whether to spend money on frivolous products while shopping at the mall, or to set money aside for the future.

In this dissertation I study patience through the context of intertemporal choice. These choices are commonplace in the marketplace, and involve choosing between a smaller-sooner (SS) and a larger-later (LL) reward. SS and LL are separated by a wait time period. If consumers are willing to endure the longer wait time for LL, then they are able to receive the greater benefits of the larger reward. Thus, choosing LL reflects greater patience, and choice of LL should increase when the wait time feels short. The wait time for the rewards can be described in different units of time. For example, 3 months can just as easily be described as 90 days. I investigate how describing the wait time in different units of time can impact patience. I argue that expressing wait time in larger time units (e.g., months rather than days) shrinks wait time perceptions, and consequently boosts patience. Importantly, I argue that this effect emerges more strongly when rewards are hedonic rather than utilitarian.

My predicted effects are based on what we know about the numerosity heuristic and the hedonic utilitarian distinction between rewards. The numerosity heuristic is the tendency to equate smaller numbers with smaller magnitudes while not fully considering the associated units. Thus, a wait time expressed as 3 months rather than 90 days should feel shorter when the influence of the numerosity heuristic is strong, since ‘3’ is less than ‘90’. I argue that numerosity’s influence will remain strong only when rewards are hedonic, and diminish when they are utilitarian. This is because utilitarian rewards in intertemporal choice should lead to a more calculative mindset when compared to hedonic rewards, which should decrease reliance on the numerosity heuristic.

I find evidence for my proposed interactive effect between time units and reward types in six studies. Also, in line with numerosity, I show that this effect is mediated by larger time units shrinking wait time perception. Finally, in line with my theory about utilitarian (vs. hedonic) rewards leading to a greater reliance on calculation, I show that a primed calculative mindset, or a simple individual tendency to be more calculative in decisions, diminishes the effect of units even for hedonic rewards, and thus eliminates the hedonic-utilitarian asymmetry. These results contribute to research on numerosity, intertemporal choice, and hedonic-utilitarian differences; and offer a simple tool for practitioners to influence patience.