Discussing proximal pasts and far futures

Evan Weingarten, Jonah Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumers often share word of mouth, and such interpersonal communication shapes attitudes and purchases. But while some research has examined what consumers talk about, there has been less attention to when consumers discuss. How does the distance from now (i.e., whether something is temporally near or far away) shape the likelihood of discussion? And might the effect of temporal distance on word of mouth vary based on whether those things happened in the past or will happen in the future? Five studies, including analyses of thousands of social media posts, address these questions. They suggest that consumers tend to talk about temporally near things, but that this is moderated by whether they are talking about the past or future (i.e., consumers talk about more temporally distant things when talking about the future). Accessibility seems to play an important role in these effects. While temporally near things tend to be more accessible, on average, goals and plans are more likely to remain active in the future, which shapes what gets discussed. These findings have implications for understanding drivers of word of mouth, how time shapes consumer behavior, and how companies can more effectively manage interpersonal communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-17
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • accessibility
  • sharing
  • time
  • word-of-mouth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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