Writing in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, Catherine Yeung and Dilip Soman report that consumers often use the length of time a service takes as a measure of its quality: The longer something takes, the better the quality or value seems. They call this the "duration heuristic."
Yeung and Soman asked volunteers to judge the price of a lock-picking service. Surprisingly, people considered the service to have been a better value when the service took longer than they did when the lock was picked faster. But this was only true when they were prompted with the price of the service first.
In a separate experiment, price again seemed to be a crucial factor. The researchers asked volunteers to judge the quality of exercise programs of different lengths of time. Absent a cost for the program, people did not judge it based on its duration. But when cost was introduced, it allowed the volunteers to make a price-per-minute assessment, and led many to prefer the longer session, even when there was no benefit to taking more time.
Their work was funded by the National University of Singapore, Republic of Singapore, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Killer Waves, Dude
Astronomers have long puzzled over the fact that the corona – the outermost part of the sun's atmosphere – is hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun itself. Now new research led by Steve Tomczyk of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) may help explain why.
Tomczyk and his team were the first to observe AlfvÃƒÂ©n waves, oscillations caused by magnetic fields, in the corona. These waves transport energy outward from the Sun and had previously been detected in the heliosphere outside the sun, but not within the corona.
The researchers, funded by the National Science Foundation, were surprised to find them "all over the corona." As they wrote in the August 31, 2007, issue of Science, Tomczyk and his colleagues hope the discovery will lead to better predictions of solar storms, as well as new insights into the fundamental behavior of solar magnetic fields, and perhaps a fuller understanding of how the sun affects earth and the solar system.
AlfvÃƒÂ©n waves were previously difficult to detect in the corona because, unlike other waves, they do not lead to large-intensity fluctuations. But Tomczyk and his team got around that problem by using a relatively new instrument – NCAR's Coronal Multichannel Polarimeter – which collects data from the corona as frequently as every 15 seconds. Their observations were made possible by the speed of the instrument and its ability to simultaneously capture intensity, velocity, and polarization images of the solar corona.