Indian-American researchers show how to avoid extremes of indulgence

February 26th, 2009 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) Some people overindulge on junk foods or shopping when they feel depressed or lose control the minute they feel happy. Is there a way to avoid such extreme actions? A new study demonstrates simple techniques that can help people act in their long-term interests instead.
“The recipe is simple,” wrote study authors Aparna A. Labroo of the University of Chicago and Anirban Mukhopadhyay, assistant professor, University of Michigan (U-M). “If you are feeling happy, focus on reasons why those feelings will last, and if you are feeling unhappy, focus on reasons why those feelings will pass.”

They explain that indulgence is often a result of people trying to improve their mood.

People tend to indulge themselves when they believe their happy feelings might pass unless they do something to prolong the good feeling. Others feel miserable and believe they’ll be stuck with the blues unless they do something to improve their mood.

“People strategically manage their actions both to accomplish their long-term interests and to attain immediate pleasures. If they believe they need to take action to regulate their feelings in the here and now, they tend to indulge in immediate pleasures. In contrast, if they believe such actions are not required, they act in their long-term interests,” they wrote.

In one study, the authors presented participants (dieters) with line drawings of either smiley or frowny faces. “The results revealed that simply associating a smiley with less transience (colouring with a superfine micro tip, which takes a long time to colour, rather than a sharpie, which colours the face in a few short strokes) resulted in people becoming more likely to act their long-term interests and choose an apple as a snack rather than a chocolate,” write the authors.

Next time your misery makes you reach for the hot fudge, take a moment to think about how the feelings will pass. “Simply thinking life is not so bad might actually help you make your life a little better by helping you make a healthy food choice,” the researchers conclude, according to an U-M release.

Anirban Mukhopadhyay did his B.Sc. (Honours), Physics from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi in July 1995, MBA (major in marketing), Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, March 1997 and Ph.D in marketing from Columbia University, June 2004.

These findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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