Your everyday life up for sale : how time-saving services undermine intrinsic motivation




Jung, Haesung

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From grocery shopping and cooking to house cleaning and dog-walking, the possibility of outsourcing just about anything has become more accessible than ever before. The appeal of the so-called time-saving purchases is clear: people can buy free time and reduce the stress associated with feeling that they have much to do with too little time to do it. Indeed, the supply of time-saving services continues to increase, covering wider range of tasks and population. Even when people do not actively seek time-saving services, it is likely that they will frequently encounter such options. In this paper, I investigate one downstream consequence of this new way of taking care of personal tasks – outsourcing life – by testing whether mere exposure to a time-saving option undermines intrinsic motivation. Across five studies, I demonstrate that mere presence of an option to pay money to buy out of an activity reduces how much the activity is enjoyed as well as how much of the activity people subsequently do. Findings show that this undermining effect primarily occurs by inducing people to treat their everyday activities as mere commodities and thus eroding the value of performing the activities. I also show that this undermining effect persist even when people choose not to use the time-saving option while the undermining effect is eliminated when time-saving options are not priced. Furthermore, exposure to time-saving services undermined intrinsic motivation only for activities that people initially perceived to be pleasant (vs. unpleasant). Lastly, I explore other psychological consequences of the mere exposure of time-saving services, including perceived time pressure, subjective well-being, enjoyment in other pleasurable activities, and activation of a market-oriented mindset. I end this paper by discussing the implications for time-saving services and for societal influence on intrinsic motivation.



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