According to Anirban Mukhopadhyay (University of Michigan), Jaideep Sengupta (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), and Suresh Ramanathan (University of Chicago), impulsive people think and act differently than non-impulsive people after they remember a time when they resisted or succumbed to temptation.
The trio examined the impulsivity of participants in four related studies, where they had participants recalling instances where they gave in to temptation or resisted it.
In fact, the participants not only had to make hypothetical food choices, they also had opportunities to eat cookies or cheeseballs-without knowing their consumption was being tracked.
In the case of impulsive people, "...thinking about failure may actually beget success," wrote the authors.
They added: "We propose and find that chronically non-impulsive individuals display behaviour consistency over time-resisting when they recall having resisted earlier. In contrast, impulsive individuals show a switching pattern, resisting current temptations if they recall having succumbed, and vice versa.
"So what is it that makes people succumb to temptation, time after sinful time? We suggest that the likelihood of a repeat act of indulgence depends on what people recall doing the previous time they were faced with a similar choice.
"In general, chronically impulsive people are more likely to feel this conflict between the two forces-of giving in and holding back, while those who tend to be less impulsive are also less likely to experience such a struggle."
The findings of the study indicate new ways to improve the health of both impulsive and non-impulsive consumers.
Both groups did a better job of resisting temptation when they recalled past instances of resisting temptation along with their reasons for resisting.
The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.