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Immediacy Effect – Influence and Sales Strategies

Immediacy Effect - Influence and Persuasion Strategies

Immediacy Effect – Influence and Sales Strategies


The Immediacy Effect is a cognitive bias that leads people, when presented with two similar goods, products, services or options, to have a greater desire for the one that will arrive or take place soonest. This even compels us to prefer an immediate reward over a higher-value, delayed reward.

Ultimately humans tend to make decisions based upon the immediacy of the reward. The more likely we are to get something quickly, the more likely we are to make a decision to want it, and equally we’d rather have a smaller reward now, than a larger one later. 

So how exactly does the immediacy effect work? Well, it plays on our impatience and our ever-increasing need to have things right now. It also emphasizes how the value of a reward drops the further away it seems. For example, most people would opt to get £50 or dollars now, than £100 or dollars a year from now.

George Ainslie the American psychiatrist, psychologist and behavioral economist conducted a study to prove the effectiveness of immediacy. His research showed the majority of his subjects said they’d prefer $50 immediately rather than $100 in six months.  But, interestingly they wouldn’t prefer $50 in three months rather than $100 in nine months. Even though this was essentially the same choice that has simply been moved forward three months. More significantly than that is that the same subjects as mentioned above said they wouldn’t prefer $50 in twelve months to $100 in 18 months. This time this is the same choice but this time, moved forward a year.

This clearly demonstrates that we tend to place a greater value on immediate rewards, even if we end up receiving, gaining or earning less.

So why does this work in practice? 

Well there are three principles at the core of every behavior: They are motivation, a trigger, and a means. The means are the resources to get what you want. This isn’t just the financial clout but the time and effort put in to choosing, buying, and making your decision.


Essentially if something is in short supply then this triggers the immediacy effect and as a result, we’ll spend the result to get it and avoid missing out. So in short, if we’re short of time, we’ll spend money. If we don’t want to take any risks, we’ll invest more effort and thought before committing. If everyone else is doing one thing, our natural tendency would be to join the queue even if it costs us time, rather than feeling like the odd one out.

But our perception can be often flawed and influenced to make unusual choices. For example, we can only judge numbers in comparison to other numbers, and not only that but we’re more inclined to not waste energy, so the easier something is or appears to be, then the more likely we are to choose it (for example joining the queue, like in the example above).


Duncan shares more influence insights and tactical strategies as well as more about the Immediacy Effect on his Youtube Channel on Youtube.com/duncanstevens – to discover more about the Immedicay Effect or to even hire him to speak about influence, sales, leadership or collaboration at your event you can follow the link below. Duncan is a professional keynote speaker and global authority on influence and persuasion. 

Duncan’s background is in behavioural psychology and also uses his expertise and skills to help teams and leaders cultivate a mindset for success. Often the difference between those who can and those who can’t comes down to 2 elements. Our ability to influence and persuade others and our mindset. In this video and blog series Duncan details influence and persuasion strategies including, this, the powerful immediacy effect. 

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