The Impact of Individual’s Beliefs on Overcoming Temptations
Research has long assumed that the process of self-control involves mechanisms for overcoming temptations. Such mechanisms, however, may not necessarily be consciously deployed, and relatively little is known about how individuals’ explicit beliefs about temptations may impact their response to them. With this in mind, five studies were conducted to examine the self-regulatory impact of individuals’ general beliefs about the necessity of avoiding temptations and the potential utility of having indulged in them. These studies considered how the impact of these beliefs may themselves depend on an individual’s ability to implement self-control. Study 1 tested the connection between an individual’s decision to avoid temptations and the two beliefs on overcoming temptations – beliefs in the necessity of avoidance and in the utility of indulgence. Studies 2 and 3 examined the relationship between self-control and the general belief that the utility of indulging in temptations affects self-control related behaviors. Study 4 explored how these beliefs may impact healthy dietary choices in the face of food temptations. Finally, Study 5 employed a different task paradigm to examine how various beliefs about temptations may mitigate the negative experiences of failures in self-control. Overall, the findings indicated that a general belief in the utility of avoiding temptations may positively impact goal pursuit, especially when self-control is low. Alternatively, a belief in the value of indulging in temptations may negatively impact goal pursuit when individuals’ self-control is low. This belief, however, may mitigate the consequences of temptation indulgence for future self-control.
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