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Goal conflict encourages work and discourages leisure

Sarah Memmi, PhD J. Etkin
Journal of Consumer Research. April 15, 2020

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Leisure is desirable and beneficial, yet consumers frequently forgo leisure in favor of other activities—namely, work. Why? We propose that goal conflict plays an important role. Seven experiments demonstrate that perceiving greater goal conflict shapes how consumers allocate time to work and leisure—even when those activities are unrelated to the conflicting goals. This occurs because goal conflict increases reliance on salient justifications, influencing how much time people spend on subsequent, unrelated activities. Because work tends to be easier to justify and leisure harder to justify, goal conflict increases time spent on work and decreases time spent on leisure. Thus, despite the conflicting goals being independent of the specific work and leisure activities considered (i.e., despite goal conflict being “incidental”), perceiving greater goal conflict encourages work and discourages leisure. The findings further understanding of how consumers allocate time to work and leisure, incidental effects of goal conflict on decision making, and the role of justification in consumer choice. They also have implications for the use of “time-saving” technologies and the marketing of leisure activities.

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