According to a recent study by Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, waiting can provide a payoff for consumers by helping them make better decisions.
She co-authored with former Chicago Booth postdoctoral fellow Xiani Dai, the study.
To test their hypothesis, the two researchers conducted a series of experiments in the U.S., mainland China and Hong Kong.
In one study, the researchers invited participants to sign up to join a subject pool for online studies. In exchange for signing up, all participants were invited to enter one of two lotteries: one would pay out a 50-dollar-prize sooner; the other would pay out a 55-dollar-prize later.
The participants were divided into three groups, each having to wait a different amount of time before given their potential prize: the first group was told they could win 50 dollars in three days or 55 dollars in 23 days; the second could win 50 dollars in 30 days or 55 dollars in 50 days; and the third group was told they could win 50 dollars in 30 days or 55 dollars in 50 days, but they had to wait before choosing a potential reward.
Researchers contacted members of the third group 27 days later to ask for a decision, at which point the participants, like those in the first group, had to choose between waiting three days or 23 days to potentially receive a prize.
Fishbach and Dai found that in the first group only 31 percent of participants chose to wait for the larger reward. In the second group, that number rose to 56 percent.
But among people in the third group, who had been waiting several weeks to make their choice, 86 percent chose to wait for the larger reward.
The study has been published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.