ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (9): 1521-1533.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01521

• Conceptual Framework •     Next Articles

How does massive information affect intertemporal choice? A theoretical perspective based on attentional resources

LI Aimei1(), CHE Jingshang1, LIU Nan1, SUN Hailong2, ZHOU Wei1   

  1. 1Management School, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
    2School of Business, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou 510420, China
  • Received:2020-12-17 Published:2021-07-22
  • Contact: LI Aimei


On the one hand, a large amount of information is helpful to the construction of the future and it can help individuals make far-sighted decisions. On the other hand, as the amount of information increases, the ambiguity and uncertainty of the future also increases, which may make individuals prefer smaller but sooner reward. So, how does a huge amount of information affect intertemporal decision making? It is an important scientific question that has not been well addressed.

Although there may be multiple cognitive abilities that play different roles in the process of massive information influencing intertemporal decisions, we believe that attention is the most important one. Mainly based on the following considerations: (1) The cost of processing information is attentional resources. (2) Selectivity of Attention determines what information is used for decision making. (3) The weight of attention given to different information may determine the decision outcome. Studies have shown that individuals' differences in intertemporal decision-making are mainly due to variance in attention. (4) There is important practical value in understanding how variance of attention affect intertemporal decision-making. Therefore, this study attempts to explore the question that how massive information influence intertemporal decision-making through attentional resources.

Firstly, we will explore how massive information can reduce prospection about the future. Because too much information makes information that are negative, concrete, and salient are more likely to capture a person's attention. This results in too little attentional resources left for future relevant events. Secondly, we will explore how the reduction of prospection lead to a preference for the short-term option in intertemporal decision-making. Specifically, when individuals' attention is drawn to immediate information, they simulate future events unclearly, and predict a lower likelihood of receiving long-term rewards. Therefore, people's intention to achieve long-term goals will be reduced and they are reluctant to plan for long-term goals. Changes in the four prospection patterns will lead to a reduced weighting of future options and therefore a preference for near-term options in intertemporal choice. Thirdly, long-term orientation moderates the effect of massive information on intertemporal decision-making. Individuals with long-term orientation pay more attention to the value related to long-term goals and reduce the attention bias to short-term related information. Thus, long-term orientation buffers the adverse effect of massive information on intertemporal decision-making. And last but not least, we attempt to facilitate individuals' far-sighted intertemporal decision-making in a massive information environment by setting salience and defaults that could directing subjects' attention to focus on long-term values.

Based on the theoretical perspective of attentional resources, this study proposes a theoretical framework that massive information affects intertemporal decision making by reducing prospection about the future. This is the first time to establish the relationship between massive information and intertemporal decision making directly. It reveals the cognitive process that massive information affects intertemporal decision making and helps us to deeply understand how people make intertemporal choice in the massive information environment. Consequently, our conclusions have important practical significance for both organizations and individuals to nudge farsighted decision by setting the environment to guide attention.

Key words: massive information, intertemporal choice, foresight, attentional resources theory, nudge

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