If you consider those sweet temptations as a bigger threat you will resist those tempting cookies, according to a new study.
Researchers at University of Texas at Austin found that your ability to resist that temptation depends on how a big a threat you perceive it to be.
Authors Ying Zhang, Szu-Chi Huang and Susan M. Broniarczyk studied techniques that enable us to resist food and other temptations.
"Four experiments show that when consumers encounter temptations that conflict with their long-term goals, one self-control mechanism is to exaggerate the negativity of the temptation as a way to resist, a process we call counteractive construal," wrote the researchers.
For example, in one study, female participants were asked to estimate the calories in a cookie. Half the participants were told that they have the option of receiving the cookie as a complimentary gift for participation and half were not.
The results showed that consumers with a strong dieting goal construed the cookie as having more calories and being more damaging to the attainment of their long-term goal of losing weight.
Another study demonstrated that counteractive construal is helpful in situations that involve a self-control conflict.
The authors also found that environmental stimuli such as posters could subtly activate people's long-term diet goals and lead them to engage in counteractive construal.
In one study, female participants entered a room that either had posters depicting fit models or nature scenery.
"Participants who were exposed to posters depicting fit models (goal-priming stimuli) were more likely to exaggerate the calories in a tempting drink that they expected to consume later on, and consequently consumed less when offered the drink," wrote the authors.
"The mental construal of temptations may be distorted when people experience a self-control conflict, and such distorted construal, rather than accurate representations, determines consumers' actual consumption, helping them resist the temptation and maintaining their long-term goal," concluded the authors.
The study has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research.