Research Shows that Times Flies When You’re Counting Down
By Vicki Morwitz and Edith Shalev
These findings offer some insights into how to tackle public health issues like obesity or dental hygiene.
Morwitz and Shalev conducted three studies where participants were asked to use a product (a hand exercise ball or an ergonomic hand grip) or count geometrical shapes on a computer screen. They found that people hold more favorable attitudes toward a product and a greater intention to buy that product after using the item and counting downward versus upward.
The researchers proposed several applications of this research:
- People may be more likely to complete physical exercises if their coach instructs them to count downward because they feel the task is less taxing.
- Children may feel that tooth brushing is less onerous and be more inclined to brush for two full minutes if their dentist instructs them to count downward while brushing.
- Conversely, people who are stressed or agitated may try counting upward (e.g., counting sheep when you have trouble sleeping) to increase the perception of relaxation.
The article, “Does Time Fly When You're Counting Down? The Effect of Counting Direction on Subjective Time Judgment,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Vicki Morwitz is a Professor of Marketing and the Harvey Golub Professor of Business Leadership.