Cultural Relevance

Immediacy Effect

Immediacy Effect (also called “Hyperbolic Discounting” or “Present Focus Bias”) is the brain’s built-in mechanism that makes people prefer an instant reward over attaining something of potentially more value in the future. This devaluing of something that is delayed can be explained by our modern desire for immediate gratification: our brains are wired to prefer the instant and immediate over the future possible so that present rewards are valued more highly than future ones. Scientists who have explored this subject have found that the Immediacy Effect is hyperbolic, meaning that it isn’t time-consistent, with the value placed on something falling rapidly and inconsistently depending on the time delay.

If you were offered the choice of £50 right now or £100 tomorrow, you would probably choose the latter but “hyperbolic discounting” describes how the importance of this extra £50 quickly diminishes for most people as the delay gap widens. For instance, if someone instead asked you to choose between £50 today or £100 in one year, you’re statistically more likely to take the £50 right now, even though the difference in financial gain hasn’t altered. This principle also helps to explain why we have so much trouble quitting unhealthy habits that procure us pleasure now but problems in the future.

The Immediacy Effect is important within the commercial world as this desire to have something immediately can affect sales of a product. For example, delivery delays are likely to have an effect on the decision of a customer to purchase with you. Offering express delivery on the other hand will often motivate people to make a purchase, and often be willing to pay more for it or extra for the special delivery time, as they are motivated by their desire to have something immediately.

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