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Abstract

The goal-gradient hypothesis states that the tendency to approach a goal increases with the increasing proximity of the goal (Hull 1932). It was initially supported with an evidence of animal experiments and since then, several papers have investigated the goal-gradient hypothesis in humans. Although there are some evidences related to the goal-gradient hypothesis in human behaviors, none of previous studies can properly explain its underlying mechanism, and what``s more, they were not able to suggest useful managerial applications in human behaviors. From these perspectives, this work points out that there are some theoretical weaknesses to apply the goal-gradient hypothesis into the complicated human decision-making behaviors and proposes an alternative theoretical mechanism that underlies the goal-gradient hypothesis in human. Finally, it offers insights into managerial implications of the goal-gradient hypothesis in the marketing field. This study focuses on the changes in motivations for achieving goals, in terms of how approaches to goals vary according to temporal distance from those goals. Specifically, the temporal construal theory (Liberman and Trope 1998) is considered as the underlying mechanism of the goal-gradient in that the temporal construal theory argues how the temporal distance from a goal makes people change their associated values regarding to that goal. According to the temporal construal theory, the value of distant future outcomes (near future outcomes) is construed on the basis of abstract and central features (concrete and peripheral features), and it argues that distant future situations are construed on a higher level than near future situations. This means that the value associated with the high-level construal is enhanced over delay, whereas the value associated with the low-level construal is discounted over delay. Our propositions suggest that the goal-gradient behavior in human can be motivated bythe different aspects or characteristics of the goal as time changes based on the temporal construal theory. Thus, the following propositions are proposed. P 1-1: If the goal is far away, consumers put more value on the central features that are more associated with the desirability of the goal. P 1-2: If the goal is far away, consumers put more effort into accomplishing the goal that has more central features, regardless of its peripheral features. P 2-1: If a goal is near, consumers put more value on the peripheral features that are more associated with the feasibility of the goal. P 2-2: If a goal is near, consumers put more effort into accomplishing the goal that has more peripheral features, regardless of its central features. We hope to provide sufficient managerial implications for the companies as our research aims to show how consumers react differently as they progress toward the goal. Proposed propositions may provide guidance for companies developing a loyalty program, enabling them to understand what kinds of benefits or services they should provide or emphasize to consumers in loyalty programs on the basis of the time-dependent changes in outcome values (such as gifts, reward coupons). The effects of temporal distance from a goal should inform companies`` marketing activities and help them to determine where emphasis should be placed in designing the benefits of their loyalty program. The goal-gradient hypothesis states that the tendency to approach a goal increases with the increasing proximity of the goal (Hull 1932). It was initially supported with an evidence of animal experiments and since then, several papers have investigated the goal-gradient hypothesis in humans. Although there are some evidences related to the goal-gradient hypothesis in human behaviors, none of previous studies can properly explain its underlying mechanism, and what``s more, they were not able to suggest useful managerial applications in human behaviors. From these perspectives, this work points out that there are some theoretical weaknesses to apply the goal-gradient hypothesis into the complicated human decision-making behaviors and proposes an alternative theoretical mechanism that underlies the goal-gradient hypothesis in human. Finally, it offers insights into managerial implications of the goal-gradient hypothesis in the marketing field. This study focuses on the changes in motivations for achieving goals, in terms of how approaches to goals vary according to temporal distance from those goals. Specifically, the temporal construal theory (Liberman and Trope 1998) is considered as the underlying mechanism of the goal-gradient in that the temporal construal theory argues how the temporal distance from a goal makes people change their associated values regarding to that goal. According to the temporal construal theory, the value of distant future outcomes (near future outcomes) is construed on the basis of abstract and central features (concrete and peripheral features), and it argues that distant future situations are construed on a higher level than near future situations. This means that the value associated with the high-level construal is enhanced over delay, whereas the value associated with the low-level construal is discounted over delay. Our propositions suggest that the goal-gradient behavior in human can be motivated by the different aspects or characteristics of the goal as time changes based on the temporal construal theory. Thus, the following propositions are proposed. P 1-1: If the goal is far away, consumers put more value on the central features that are more associated with the desirability of the goal. P 1-2: If the goal is far away, consumers put more effort into accomplishing the goal that has more central features, regardless of its peripheral features. P 2-1: If a goal is near, consumers put more value on the peripheral features that are more associated with the feasibility of the goal. P 2-2: If a goal is near, consumers put more effort into accomplishing the goal that has more peripheral features, regardless of its central features. We hope to provide sufficient managerial implications for the companies as our research aims to show how consumers react differently as they progress toward the goal. Proposed propositions may provide guidance for companies developing a loyalty program, enabling them to understand what kinds of benefits or services they should provide or emphasize to consumers in loyalty programs on the basis of the time-dependent changes in outcome values (such as gifts, reward coupons). The effects of temporal distance from a goal should inform companies`` marketing activities and help them to determine where emphasis should be placed in designing the benefits of their loyalty program.

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