Feelings of guilt and shame can help people stay away from high calorie diet, reveals a new study.
The study suggests that feeling guilty might find you comparing calories in different cartons of ice cream, but feeling ashamed might keep you from buying any ice cream in the first place.
Study authors DaHee Han (McGill University), Adam Duhachek (Indiana University), and Nidhi Agrawal (University of Washington), said that they examined the emotions of guilt and shame and found that when consumers feel guilty, who tend to focus on concrete details at the expense of the bigger picture. On the other hand, when consumers feel ashamed, they are more likely to think abstractly and form a more holistic view.
In one study, consumers were asked to write about a time when they felt either guilty or ashamed. After their responses were collected, the consumers were then asked to read an essay and choose whether they wanted to answer questions or demonstrate a task to test how well they understood the topic. Consumers who wrote about feeling guilty preferred to answer questions (focusing on the details), while consumers who wrote about feeling ashamed preferred to demonstrate a task (focusing on the bigger picture).
These results offer insight for companies in industries such as fitness or personal care that might allude to guilt and shame in their advertisements. To combat any negative effects, mentioning a daily yoga class (detail) could offset feelings of guilt and promising improvements in overall health (big picture) could temper feelings of shame.
The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.