Can being happy make you less able to resist temptation?

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Eric Barker  -  
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We investigate the interfering influence of elevated arousal on the impact of positive mood on resistance to temptation. Three studies demonstrate that when a temptation activates long‐term health goals, baseline positive mood facilitates resistance to temptation in (1) the choice between two snack items, one of which is more unhealthy, sinful, and hard to resist (M&Ms) than the other (grapes) and (2) the monitoring of consumption when the sinful option is chosen. However, this influence is attenuated when positive mood is accompanied by elevated arousal. We demonstrate that the cognitive depletion that accompanies elevated arousal interferes with the self‐regulatory focus of positive mood, decreasing resistance to temptation.

Source: “Positive Mood and Resistance to Temptation: The Interfering Influence of Elevated Arousal” from Journal of Consumer Research

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Think you have good self-control? Yes? Now you don’t.

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Eric Barker  -  
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Four studies examined how impulse-control beliefs—beliefs regarding one’s ability to regulate visceral impulses, such as hunger, drug craving, and sexual arousal—influence the self-control process. The findings provide evidence for a restraint bias: a tendency for people to overestimate their capacity for impulse control. This biased perception of restraint had important consequences for people’s self-control strategies. Inflated impulse-control beliefs led people to overexpose themselves to temptation, thereby promoting impulsive behavior. In Study 4, for example, the impulse-control beliefs of recovering smokers predicted their exposure to situations in which they would be tempted to smoke. Recovering smokers with more inflated impulse-control beliefs exposed themselves to more temptation, which led to higher rates of relapse 4 months later. The restraint bias offers unique insight into how erroneous beliefs about self-restraint promote impulsive behavior.

Source: “The Restraint Bias: How the Illusion of Self-Restraint Promotes Impulsive Behavior” from Psychological Science, Volume 20 Issue 12, Pages 1523 – 1528

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