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: Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

Oct 21, 2014

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

How the lotus got its own administration

Oct 21, 2014

Actually the lotus is a very ordinary plant. Nevertheless, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a complex bureaucratic structure was built up around this plant. The lotus was part of the Imperial Household, ...

What labels on textiles can tell us about society

Oct 21, 2014

Throughout Chinese history, dynastic states used labels on textiles to spread information on the maker, the commissioner, the owner or the date and site of production. Silks produced in state-owned manufacture ...

US company sells out of Ebola toys

Oct 17, 2014

They might look tasteless, but satisfied customers dub them cute and adorable. Ebola-themed toys have proved such a hit that one US-based company has sold out.

User comments : 0