Research Reveals Resistance to Temptation Tied to Mood

Thursday, July 22, 2010 Research News
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INDIANAPOLIS, July 21 While it may be convenient to add in a trip to the grocery store after a good workout at the gym, a recent study confirms it may not be the best idea for your waistline.

The study in the current issue of the Journal of Consumer Research indicates mood, positive or negative, has a noticeable effect on the choices made by consumers. Co-authors Alexander Fedorikhin, of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, and Vanessa Patrick, of the University of Houston, conducted three experiments to show how strong feelings alter one's ability to resist temptations.

"While happy people make better and healthier choices, this is dependent on the intensity of positive feelings experienced," said Fedorikhin, an associate professor of marketing at Kelley Indianapolis.

The first study involved one group of participants watching a positive but calm move clip and a second group watching a positive but exciting movie clip before choosing between a cup of grapes or a cup of M&Ms. The second study involved the first group performing a light exercise after a calm-but-happy movie clip while the second group was sedentary after watching the exciting clip.

The third portion focused more on mental energy and asked one group to remember a seven-digit number while the other was asked to remember a two-digit number. Both groups were then allowed to choose a snack.

In all three cases, the people assigned tasks requiring the most mental energy were more likely to choose the unhealthy food. Also, the group who first watched the calm movie clip still chose M&Ms as their preferred snack, but they were more likely to control the amount of chocolate candies they consumed when compared to those who watched the exciting clip.

In other words, the level of arousal accompanying the positive mood state can interfere with the beneficial aspects of positive mood on resistance to temptation.

"The biggest significance from a public policy perspective is how positive mood influences self control," Fedorikhin said.

Performing an intense workout, listening to blood-pumping music or even performing high-intensity activities at work can deplete mental energy and make it more likely one might succumb to temptation.

The results of this study could prove valuable to consumers who seek to better understand their own purchasing behavior as well as marketers intent on better targeting audiences with products or services.

SOURCE IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis

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