Necessary lattes? People short on self-control categorize more items as necessities

Nov 17, 2008

Why do so many of us give up on those New Year's resolutions to lose weight or
curb luxury spending? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says it
has to do with the way our goals intersect with our natures.

Why do so many of us give up on those New Year's resolutions to lose weight or curb luxury spending? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says it has to do with the way our goals intersect with our natures.

The pathbreaking study by authors Cait Poynor (University of Pittsburgh) and Kelly L. Haws (Texas A&M University) is one of the first to try to understand why some people have more trouble than others regulating behaviors. It uncovers some important differences in the way people categorize "necessities" and "luxuries."

"The data demonstrates the basic differences among consumers in their tendency to embrace indulgence or restriction goals," explain the authors. "Even when pursuing the same goal, high and low self-control consumers create dramatically different categories of goal-consistent and goal-inconsistent options."

In three studies, the researchers examined the process individuals cycle through when trying to make a change. First, they select goals, then they form "implementation intentions," deciding which options and behaviors are consistent with the goals. "For example, you might make a budget, deciding which items are necessities and which are luxuries, buy a diet book, which tells you which foods you may and may not eat, or organize your weekly schedule to include work sessions and time to participate in leisure activities," the authors explain.

"Importantly, results suggest that the goal pursuit process can appear to proceed smoothly but in fact be derailed during this second phase."

Where many people get tripped up is when their goals require them to overcome their default tendencies. For example, people the researchers categorized as having "low self-control" tended to do better with "indulgence goals," like enjoying purchases more. Individuals with higher self-control preferred "restriction goals," which led them to categorize fewer items as necessities.

"The most effective self-control interventions may vary depending on one's selfcontrol level and the nature of one's chosen goal," the authors conclude.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

IOC defends Rio legacy amid green protests

45 minutes ago

Ecological protests on Saturday dogged the final day of an International Olympic Committee executive board meeting in Rio as green campaigners slated the choice of a nature reserve to hold the golf event ...

Japan's NTT to buy German data centre operator

46 minutes ago

Japanese telecom giant NTT Communications is looking to acquire German data centre operator e-shelter, as it seeks to cash in on growing demand in Europe, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Fashionable or geeky—the modern watch dilemma

5 hours ago

It's Milan fashion week, you've got tickets to the catwalk shows and an outfit to die for, but which watch to wear? A chunky smartwatch or chic ticker that can't tell the time?

Recommended for you

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

How music listening programmes can be easily fooled

Feb 26, 2015

For well over two decades, researchers have sought to build music listening software that can address the deluge of music growing faster than our Spotify-spoilt appetites. From software that can tell you ...

Nature journal to begin offering double-blind peer review

Feb 23, 2015

Well known and respected journal, Nature, will begin next month offering researchers who submit their work for peer review, the option of having it done via the double-blind method—whereby both submitters and re ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.