What compulsive buyers, marketing, social and moral dilemmas have in common? Interview with Dr. Jeff Joireman

Time Talks: International Time Perspective Network thematic groups interview series

In these series we bring you individual stories about the members of the International Time Perspective Network, what is it that they are passionate about, how they bring their ideas to life, and what role time perspective plays in their lives.

We hope that you’ll be inspired by the many aspects of the concept of time, share our fascination and join the dialogue! Our next meeting will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark: 15–19 August, 2016. Celebrating Time.

International Time Perspective Network | Diversity of Approaches, Unity of Passion

Dr. Jeff Joireman is a co-author in research on the Consideration of Future Consequences Scale (CFC). This scale measures whether people are more likely to consider the immediate consequences of their behaviour or the future consequences of their behaviour.

As an early postgraduate student, I spend much of my time exploring and enjoying decades of research on time perspective! A name that continues to crop up in my literature searching is that of Dr. Jeff Joireman. Jeff’s research on time perspective and individual differences in the consideration of immediate and future consequences is exciting and thought-provoking, and spans across many different areas of psychology, including in consumer behaviour, health related decision-making, organisational psychology, and environmental behaviour.

When presented with the opportunity to conduct an interview as part of the Time Talks series, one name immediately came to mind, and I was delighted when Jeff promptly agreed to take part.

~ Lisa Murphy, Time Talks interviewer

Your research into temporal psychology has spanned across many different areas, from spending lots of money on the spur of the moment without planning to teenage behaviours that are harmful and hostile. A common theme in your research is exploring how some people mostly live for the present moment when others mostly consider their future selves. What initially sparked your interest in this concept?

During the 1994–1995 academic year, I was a Fulbright scholar at the VU University in Amsterdam, where I had the privilege of studying decision-making in social dilemmas with Paul Van Lange. At the time, social dilemmas were typically defined as situations in which individual and collective interests were at odds (a social conflict). Although some scholars had pointed out that social dilemmas also involve a temporal conflict (e.g., Messick & Brewer, 1983)(1), I felt the field was overlooking the importance of the temporal dimension.

During that time, I read Alan Strathman’s (1994)(2) article introducing the Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) scale and was immediately hooked. I still remember thinking: “this is exactly what I want to study.” Since then, my co-authors and I have connected CFC with a variety of behaviors relevant to the individual’s, society’s and the environment’s long-term well-being.

Your recent study showed that compulsive buyers, who surrender easily to temptations of the present moment, are more likely to accumulate credit card debt. How do you think these results could help people to avoid bankruptcy, but also more generally reduce risk taking or aggressive behavior?

That study suggested that a high level of concern with immediate consequences is a susceptibility factor. In other words, high concern with immediate consequences makes it more likely that people will act on their compulsive buying tendencies.

I am a strong believer in the power of “meta cognitive skills”; thus, if we can make people aware of their liabilities, and triggers for suboptimal decision-making (e.g., racking up a lot of credit card debt, saying the wrong thing when one is angry), we can help people identify and activate strategies for dealing with those challenging situations.

How do you think studies of the concept of time can contribute to the field of marketing?

I believe the concept of time is fundamental to marketing. Indeed, it is difficult to think about a consumer behaviour that does not have a temporal element built into it. Oftentimes, consumers must choose between options that make them happy in the here and now and actions that would make them happier in the long-run. This temporal dilemma is pervasive in marketing.

Illustration by Vo-Vo artist (Halyna Havryliv)

How has time perspective helped you learn about dilemmas and the way people make decisions, particularly when it comes to moral decisions?

Time perspective helps me frame the decisions people make as trade-offs between short-term and long-term interests. This broad framing then intersects with a number of important theoretical perspectives (e.g., temporal construal theory(3), the depletion model of self-control (4)) to identify interesting research questions that apply to a wide range of choices that can impact the individual, society, and the environment. I see many of these decisions (e.g., environmental decisions) as moral decisions, as I believe we have an obligation to leave subsequent generations a liveable planet.

In your book, “How to publish high quality research”, you outline a variety of research styles, from creative and comparative research, to societal and interactive research. Which of these styles do you feel research on time perspective is best suited?

This is a great question. Clearly, many people interested in temporal issues have focused on the role of individual differences, as measured by the ZTPI and CFC. So, I guess I would say that Chapter 9 (Develop a New Tool to Assess Individual Differences) is very relevant; in fact, that chapter discusses Alan Strathman’s work on the CFC scale.

Another relevant chapter would be Chapter 8 (Combine Mediators and Moderators). In my view, some of the most interesting questions deal with interactions between individual differences in time perspective and features of the person or situation, such as Orbell’s work (5) on how CFC moderates the effects of differentially framed health messages.

What are your hopes for the future of temporal psychology as a field in general and where do you see your personal research going?

In my view, the rapidly growing interest in temporal issues is fantastic, as most if not all of our decisions involve a temporal element. As the field of temporal psychology moves forward, I think it will be helpful to (a) further develop integrative theoretical frameworks for understanding these decisions; (b) seek a more interdisciplinary perspective on these issues; and (c) complement the large body of correlational work connecting individual differences in ZTPI and CFC with various outcomes with rigorous experimental studies (i.e., identifying features of the situation that drive these decisions, and/or interact with individual differences). Currently, I am very interested in the role of CFC in health behaviour, and I am working on two large-scale reviews of the CFC literature.

Do you score higher in CFC-Immediate or CFC-Future (6)?

Most people say they score higher on CFC-Future. I’m with them, but it probably depends to a certain extent on the situation. When it comes to financial planning, I’m probably pretty high in CFC-F, but when it comes to exercise…well, I could probably do better. Some of the interesting work on CFC these days is tailoring the scale to different domains, which I think is a sensible idea.

The time perspective conference in Warsaw was a great success! What were your personal highlights of the event?

I really enjoyed meeting the many scholars from around the globe who are interested in temporal issues and experiencing the enthusiasm and excitement for this topic. It was also a privilege to spend time with, and share the stage with, stalwarts in the field of time perspective. Lastly, I thought the conference was extremely well organized, and I loved the people and city of Warsaw.

Are you planning on joining us in Copenhagen next August for the 3rd International Conference on Time Perspective?

I would enjoy attending, but I may not be able to, given a large amount of traveling already scheduled for that summer, but I will keep thinking about it.

Thank you! We hope to see you in Copenhagen!

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This interview is brought to you by:

Interviewers | members of the Integration of the Field thematic group

Lisa Murphy — Lisa Murphy is a 2nd year PhD student in the School of Applied Psychology at University College Cork, Ireland. Lisa’s work focuses on the role of temporal orientation in decision making around health and behaviour change. Twitter: @lisaemurphy. Website.

Alejandro Vasquez — BA in psychology, University of the Republic, Uruguay. MA in Psychology, Basque Country University PhD in Psychology, University of Porto. Back to Uruguay, he is working in the University of the Republic as Associate Professor. His main research interests are the development of the episodic foresight and the role of the consideration of future consequences on personality and well-being. Website.

Illustration — Vo-Vo artist, (Halyna Havryliv), after finishing her master’s in psychology she found herself in designing, vectorization… and tattoo.

Proof-reading — Natalie Odisho, interested in the intersection between well-being and time perspective. As a wellness specialist, Natalie investigates motivation of the individual and how this shapes mass behavior. Her experience includes intensive detoxification training, Refugee: The Eritrean Exodus documentary, and Style’s New York Fashion Week.

Assistant editor — Oksana Senyk, assistant at Psychology Department, Ivan Franko National University of L’viv, Ukraine

Idea and realization — Anna Sircova, Twitter @anna_bki


(1) Individual adaptations and structural change as solutions to social dilemmas. Messick, Brewer and colleagues (1983).

(2) The Consideration of Future Consequences: Weighing Immediate and Distant Outcomes of Behavior. Strathman and colleagues (1994). http://goo.gl/OXPAq9

(3) Temporal Construal Theory describes how the length of time between the present moment and an approaching event can significantly change peoples’ responses to that event. The greater the length of time between the present moment and a future event, the more likely an individual is to think about the event in terms of a few general, decontextualized features of the event itself. Alternatively, individuals tend to think about events that are closer in time to the present moment in terms of concrete and contextual details of that event. For more, see http://goo.gl/hjWdnd

(4) The Depletion Model of Self Control describes how an individual’s level of self-control is a finite personal resource with limited capacity for effortful actions and responses. Once impaired or used up, this resources leads to impaired performance on tasks which require self-control, e.g. cognitive tasks or playing sports. For more, see http://archive.is/aK7Vn

(5) Individual Differences in Sensitivity to Health Communications: Consideration of Future Consequences. Orbel and colleagues (2004). http://goo.gl/wm8PPA

(6) CFC-I = Considering the immediate consequences of behaviours: People who think only about immediate consequences are more likely to engage in risky behaviours (e.g. cigarette smoking) and tend to be more impulsive.

CFC-F = Considering the future consequences of behaviours: People who think only about future consequences are more likely to sacrifice the present temptations or desires in favour of future benefits (e.g. adopting a health diet).