Overcoming first temptation prevents you from slipping the next time

April 1st, 2009 - 1:54 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 1 (ANI): The temptation to gorge on that sumptuous chocolate cake, or the urge to buy that discounted pair of shoes, can be curbed if a person has already been exposed to similar choices before, according to a study.

The study shows that people’s resistance gets a boost after they have just been exposed to similar temptations.

“The threat of overconsumption is a real one for many of us. It is all too easy to eat or spend too much, and many others struggle with their desire to smoke or to drink alcohol or to take another pain killer,” said authors Siegfried Dewitte, Sabrina Bruyneel (both K.U.Leuven), and Kelly Geyskens (Maastricht University, The Netherlands).

It was found that in situations when self-control is repeatedly tested, a defence strategy that works for a first temptation could be used to deal with the next.

“In a first study we showed that, consistent with common intuition, people performed worse at a difficult mental game than a control group if they had just attempted to control the content of their thoughts. However, those who had just engaged in a similar difficult mental game performed better than a control group,” wrote the authors.

In a second study, the authors exposed participants to candies, which they were not supposed to eat.

“Being exposed to candies without eating them indeed led to worse performance on a subsequent self-regulation task, but it also led to better regulation of candy consumption in a follow-up situation,” explained the authors.

In another study, participants were exposed to a series of consumption choices.

In each set of choices, there was one option that required more self-control than the other. For example, some participants had to choose between waiting two weeks for a discounted video game versus purchasing one at full price immediately.

After the series of choices, the subjects went through a final set of choices that were either different or similar to their previous ones.

“It turned out that participants became better at self-regulating their choices if they had been exposed to similar options before,” wrote the authors.

They added: “Together these studies demonstrate that although our resistance to temptation indeed wears out when we receive a series of different temptations, as common wisdom has it, our resistance gets a boost when we have just been exposed to a similar temptation.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research. (ANI)

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