Next Week, Next Month, Next Year: How Perceived Temporal Boundaries Affect Initiation Expectations

To move from commitment to action, planners must think about the future and decide when to initiate. We demonstrate that planners prefer to initiate on upcoming days that immediately follow a temporal boundary. For example, aspiring dieters who considered a time horizon from Thursday, February 27th to Tuesday, March 4th showed expectation increases from Days 4 to 5 (Sunday to Monday) when induced to think of weekdays and from Days 2 to 3 (February 28th to March 1st) when induced to think of calendar dates. Using both causal steps- and moderation-based approaches, we demonstrate that this occurs (in part) because planners neglect situational constraints when evaluating initiation opportunities after (vs. before) temporal boundaries. A field experiment demonstrated a costly consequence: Aspiring dieters were more likely to sacrifice 1 week of access to an expensive weight-loss program if it allowed them to start on a day they perceived to follow a temporal boundary.