When an hour feels shorter: Future boundary tasks alter consumption by contracting time

Gabriela N. Tonietto, Selin A. Malkoc, Stephen M. Nowlis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Consumers often organize their time by scheduling various tasks, but also leave some time unaccounted for. The authors examine whether ending an interval of unaccounted time with an upcoming task systematically alters how this time is perceived and consumed. Eight studies conducted in both the lab and field show that bounded intervals of time (e.g., an hour before a scheduled meeting) feel prospectively shorter than unbounded intervals of time (e.g., an hour with nothing scheduled subsequently). Furthermore, consumers perform fewer tasks and are less likely to engage in relatively extended (though feasible) tasks during a bounded compared to an unbounded interval of time—even in the face of financial incentives. Finally, making a longer task easier to separate into subtasks attenuates this effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1102
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


  • Prospective time perception
  • Scheduling
  • Subjective duration
  • Time consumption


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