Optimal foraging online: Increasing sensitivity to delay



This experiment is a replication and extension of the Rajala and Hantula (2000) study of sensitivity to feedback delay while shopping in a simulated Internet mall. The experiment consisted of three conditions: One group had an ascending clock placed on the computer screen to cue the passage of time, another group had a descending clock placed on the computer screen, and as a control and replication condition, another group had no clock on the computer screen. Participants were more sensitive to the delays in the various stores in the cybermall when an ascending clock was present on the screen. A hyperbolic discount function fit best described the number of entries into each store, amount of time spent in each store, and relative number of purchases in each store. A customer-satisfaction survey showed decreasing positive attitudes toward the stores as a function of delay. These results have implications both in terms of foraging theory applied to human behavior, as well as for the practice of online marketing. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.