Individuals acknowledge the importance of engaging in virtuous behaviors, but find them difficult. Past research suggests that a distant-future focus may result in more commitment.
This research demonstrates that, for certain consumers, distant-future execution timing may discourage commitment. Specifically, whereas low self-control consumers are indeed more likely to commit to distant-future behaviors, high self-control consumers are more likely to commit to near-future behaviors. This is demonstrated when commitment does not hold a cost (study 1), but also when it does (study 2).
Consumers’ time availability certainty underlies the effect: Low self-control consumers feel more certain that in the distant future they will be able to identify the time necessary to fulfill their commitments, whereas high self-control consumers feel more certain regarding their ability to identify their available time in the near future (studies 3a–3b).
The effect is shown to occur only when the commitment’s time of execution reflects different levels of time concreteness: The effect is eliminated among consumers who perceive the near and distant future as equally concrete or abstract (study 4).