Mapping Time: How the Spatial Representation of Time Influences Intertemporal Choices

Marisabel Romero, Adam W. Craig, Anand Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cognitive linguistic studies have found that people perceive time to be intertwined with space. Western consumers, in particular, visualize time on a horizontal spatial axis, with past events on the left and future events on the right. Underexplored, however, is whether and how space-time associations influence future time-related judgments and decisions. For instance, can spatial location cues affect intertemporal decisions? Integrating cognitive linguistics, time psychology, and intertemporal choice, the authors demonstrate across five studies that when choices are displayed horizontally (vs. vertically), consumers more steeply discount future outcomes. Furthermore, this effect is serially mediated by attention to time and anticipated duration estimates. Specifically, the authors propose and demonstrate that horizontal (vs. vertical) temporal displays enhance the amount of attention devoted to considering the time delay and lead consumers to overestimate how long it will take to receive benefits. This research has important implications for consumers who want to forgo immediate gratification and for firms that need to manage consumers’ time perceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-636
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Marketing Association 2019.


  • attention
  • delay discounting
  • intertemporal choice
  • retirement
  • spatial cues
  • time perception
  • visual arrangement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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