Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that people's values predict their behavioral intentions for the distant future more than for the near future. However, these experiments do not examine what determines people's behavioral intentions for near future situations. Based on CLT, we suggest that behavioral intentions for the near future are influenced by low-level aspects of the event, such as feasibility aspects, rather than by high-level aspects, such as one's values. Experiment 3 was designed to test this prediction. After completing a paid experiment, participants were asked to volunteer for another experiment, which did not offer either payment or course credit. Participants were told that the experiment would take place either in the near future or in the distant future. In the low feasibility condition, the experiment was said to take place early in the morning, which pretesting showed was an inconvenient time for most students, whereas in the high feasibility condition, it was said to take place in the afternoon, which pretesting showed was a convenient time for most students. Participants indicated the amount of time they would be willing to contribute to participation in an experiment. We predicted that participant's benevolence values would better predict the amount of time they would be willing to contribute in a temporally distant experiment than in a temporally near experiment. We also expected that feasibility considerations would better predict the amount of time participants would be willing to contribute in a temporally near experiment than in a temporally distant experiment.
Participants were 82 undergraduate students from Ben Gurion University (57 women) who took part in a 45 min experimental session and received 30 shekels (about $8) for participation. The experiment was conducted in groups of 5–8 participants. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two temporal distance conditions and to one of the two feasibility conditions.
Participants first completed a paid, 45 min experimental session. This experiment was conducted at the BGU School of Business, and included various tasks such as Schwartz's (1992)
value scale (administered at the beginning of the experimental session), surveys about participants' courses and school life in general (e.g., academic, leisure time, emotional reactions), and a perception task. All these tasks were completed on desktop computers. Upon completing the experimental session, participants were paid and debriefed. They were then approached by the experimenter who told them that one of her friends, a psychology graduate student, was looking for student participants for her experiment. Participants were handed a request that was supposedly written by the graduate student and read as follows:
“Hello, my name is Yael, and I'm a Psychology graduate student. To complete my dissertation, I need many students to participate in my experiments. It would really help me if you could participate in one of my experiments! Some of my experiments take a few minutes, whereas others may take up to an hour. The more time you contribute, the more helpful it would be. Unfortunately, I cannot pay or give credit for participation. The experiments will take place in the next few days (in a few months, during the second semester) in the afternoon [early in the morning, between 7AM and 9AM]”.
Four versions varied, between participants, the temporal distance of the expected experiment (in the next few days versus in a few months), and the feasibility level (in the afternoon versus early in the morning between 7AM and 9AM).2
Participants were asked to list their name and email if they wished to participate in one of the student's experiments, and the number of minutes they would be willing to contribute.
Results and discussion
Only participants who indicated their name, email, and amount of time for participation were included in the analysis. We first averaged, for each participant, the five items from the value scale referring to benevolence value (Cronbach α = .70) and then identified those who were below versus above the median (Median = 5). We then conducted a 2 (temporal distance: near future vs. distant future) by 2 (benevolence: low vs. high) by 2 (feasibility: low vs. high) ANOVA on the number of minutes participants were willing to contribute. The analysis yielded a temporal distance by benevolence interaction, F(1, 74) = 3.95, p < .05. This indicates, as can be seen in , that when the experiment was expected to take place in the distant future, those high in benevolence were willing to contribute more time to an experiment (M = 43.89, SD = 15.00) than those low in benevolence (M = 31.59, SD = 13.66), F(1, 74) = 7.34, p < .01. However, when the experiment was expected to take place in the near future, there was no difference in contribution time between those high in benevolence (M = 30.26, SD = 14.95) and those low in benevolence (M = 34.35, SD = 22.33), F <1, ns.
Amount of time intended to volunteer in an experiment as a function of temporal distance, benevolence and feasibility considerations (Experiment 3)
In addition, the analysis yielded a temporal distance by feasibility interaction, F(1,74) = 4.39, p < .05. This indicates, as can be seen in , that when the experiment was expected to take place in the near future, participants were willing to contribute more time to an experiment at a convenient time (M = 37.73, SD = 21.37) than an inconvenient time (M = 26.75, SD = 15.07), F(1, 79) = 4.33, p < .05. However, when the experiment was expected to take place in the distant future, time contribution was not significantly affected by whether the timing of the experiment was convenient (M = 33.26, SD = 12.30) or inconvenient (M = 40.83, SD = 18.49), F(1, 79) = 1.98, p > .05. None of the other interactions or main effects were significant. Thus, whereas values influenced participants' intentions to contribute time in the distant future and not in the near future, feasibility considerations influenced participants' intention to contribute time in the near future but not in the distant future.
The findings of this experiment extend those of Experiments 1 and 2 in two important ways. First, they demonstrate that values better predict behavioral intentions for the more distant future, not only when the behavior is hypothetical, but also when it is actual. Second, they show that near future behavioral intentions are not simply unpredictable, but are rather predicted by low-level factors.
Note that these findings also address a possible claim that the results reflect a differential amount of knowledge- namely, that participants had more knowledge regarding the near future than the distant future. Obviously, it was not a lack of knowledge that prevented participants from taking into account the inconvenience of the time of the experiment. Students knew that the early morning is not convenient (as our pretesting showed), but nevertheless gave this consideration little weight and, instead, were guided by their values in planning behaviors for the distant future (see Liberman & Trope, 1998
, for related evidence regarding the weight of feasibility in future decisions). Thus, whereas high-level values determined participants' intentions for a temporally distant situation, low-level, feasibility considerations determined participants' intentions for a temporally near situation. Experiment 4 aimed to more directly test the role of construal in determining the effect of temporal distance on the correspondence between values and behavioral intentions.