Spoiling the pleasure of success: Emotional reactions to the experience of self-control conflict in the eating domain
Number of pages
SourceEmotion, 19, 8, (2019), pp. 1377-1395
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI SCP
SubjectBehaviour Change and Well-being
People often experience self-control conflicts (i.e., feel tempted to indulge while motivated to resist). But, how do people feel after making such conflicted self-control choices? Whereas previous research has focused almost exclusively on the influence of choice outcomes (healthy vs. unhealthy) on emotional reactions (e.g., pride vs. guilt), we propose that the experience of conflict during decision making could have a unique influence, possibly fueling negative emotions (i.e., regret) regardless of people's choice outcomes. To test this, we studied immediate consequences of people's experience of conflict during self-control decision making (healthy vs. unhealthy food choice) on self-conscious emotions (i.e., guilt, regret, or pride), choice satisfaction and future behavior. Across 5 studies (vignette, field, and experience sampling), we found a link between self-control conflict and negativity: the more difficulty (proxy of conflict, Studies 1 and 2) or conflict (Studies 3 and 5) participants experienced during self-control decision making, the more negative they felt about their choice afterward. This was the case for unhealthy as well as healthy choices. Specifically, self-control conflict strength was associated with increased levels of guilt and regret (but not pride), with lower satisfaction and with lowered odds of making a similar choice in the future (Studies 1 to 3). Studies 4 and 5 suggested that conflict strength can boost pride after healthy choices, but only if participants first appraised their choice as acts of self-control. Our findings, therefore, highlight the costs as well as the potential benefits of experiencing conflict during self-control decision making.
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