Clenching muscles can build self-control and willpower to go through immediate pain to gain long-term objectives.
Authors Iris W. Hung from National University of Singapore and Aparna A. Labroo from University of Chicago studied participants from range of self-control dilemmas that involved accepting immediate pain for long-term gain.
In one study, participants submerged their hands in an ice bucket to demonstrate pain resistance whereas in another participants consumed a healthy but awful-tasting vinegar drink.
In third experiment, study participants decided whether to look at disturbing information about injured children devastated by an earthquake in Haiti and donate money to help and finally researchers observed actual food choices people made as they shopped for lunch at a local cafeteria.
"Participants who were instructed to tighten their muscles, regardless of which muscles they tightened-hand, finger, calf, or biceps-while trying to exert self-control demonstrated greater ability to withstand the pain, consume the unpleasant medicine, attend to the immediately disturbing but essential information, or overcome tempting foods," said authors, in the study.
The authors found that the muscle tightening only helped when the choice aligned with the participants' goals (for example, to have a healthier lifestyle) and also that the tightening of muscles only helped at the moment people faced the self-control dilemma.
"The mind and the body are so closely tied together, merely clenching muscles can also activate willpower. Thus simply engaging in these bodily actions, which often result from an exertion of willpower, can serve as a non-conscious source to recruit willpower, facilitate self-control, and improve consumer wellbeing," they concluded.
A research is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.