Tangential Immersion: Increasing Persistence in Boring Consumer Behaviors

Alicea Lieberman, Andrea C. Morales, On Amir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumers' lives are filled with myriad behaviors that can be successfully executed with minimal attention. Many such low-attention behaviors benefit from persistence but are often not performed long enough (e.g., hygiene, exercise). The current work examines consumer persistence-failures through an attentional lens. Specifically, drawing on boredom and resource-matching frameworks, we suggest one key driver of poor consumer persistence is that many behaviors demand less attention than consumers have available, leaving excess attention that leads to boredom and premature abandonment. The current research thus proposes an attention-matching framework for persistence and suggests that concurrently performing a task that engages excess attention will improve the match between attentional demands and available resources, thereby increasing persistence. Five experiments across a range of low-attention behaviors (e.g., toothbrushing, coordination exercise) demonstrate that concurrently performing a task that occupies excess attention (e.g., reading, listening), delays boredom and increases persistence. Moreover, two important boundary conditions arise. First, the focal behavior must require minimal attention, leaving excess attention available to attend to the tangential task. Second, the tangential task must engage excess attention without exceeding attentional capacity. This research provides important theoretical and practical contributions, offering the potential to improve consumer well-being by increasing persistence in low-attention behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-472
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • attention
  • boredom
  • multitasking
  • persistence
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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