Some people are more oriented to the future, some to the past. Some are oriented to the present moment. Temporal focus time style describes the amount of the attention an individual devotes to thinking about the past, present, and future.
This is important, because it affects how people think about past experiences, current situations, and future expectations. Furthermore, these different orientations have been found to affect motives, behavior and choices. For example if I tried to sell fact content I’d be most interested in past group, and I would sell infotainment the present and future groups would be most appealing (see figure below).
According to Shipp & Edwards & Lambert (2009)[i] study about temporal focus and job satisfaction reveled that past-focused individuals tended to be more negative. Present focus individuals had more positive attitude towards everything and future focused had higher perceptions of future job characteristics and more positive attitudes towards the future. Job satisfaction and commitment depended upon the level of future focus. According to my Euro election 2014 research the future focused were most eager to vote and the present focused voted most seldomly.
Shipp & Edwards & Lambert (2009) have developed a 12-statement scale (Temporal Focus Scale (TFS)) to measure consumers’ time focus. They have tested the TFS through four independent studies and found it useful in separating consumers and predicting their attitudes. According to Shipp & Edwards & Lambert (2009) the most illustrative variables were: ‘‘I replay memories of the past in my mind” for past temporal focus, ‘‘My mind is on the here and now” for current temporal focus, and ‘‘I focus on my future” for future temporal focus. I have decided to use these statements instead the whole scale, due to need to keep my questionnaires short.
Some people have argued that young people are only interested about present enjoyment and that elder people think about the past all the time. This is not exactly true. There are future, present and past focused people in all age groups. Although, there seems to be less future focused people in elderly than young people and elderly people do seem to replay memories more than others. The figure presents people who “fully agree” with statements listed above.
Women are more future focused than men, who seem to think their past quit a lot. Future focus seems to be related to educational level. I divided the consumers into past, present and future focused, based on their agreement/disagreement with statements above. For example agreeing with statement ‘‘I replay memories of the past in my mind” or disagreeing with ‘‘I focus on my future” was coded as past focus and vice versa for future focus This turned out to be slightly problematic since some people agreed with more than one statement. The controversies were excluded.
Something to consider: What kind of time styles do your customers have? Could you adjust your marketing message to fit better to prevailing time styles? What kind of time focus do you have personally and does it affect your consumption patters?
[i] Shipp, Abbie J. & Edwards Jeffrey R. & Lambert, Lisa Schurer (2009): “Conceptualization and measurement of temporal focus: The subjective experience of the past, present, and future”, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 110 (2009) 1–22