"Self-control failures depend on whether people see activities involving self-control (e.g., eating in moderate quantities) as an obligation to work or an opportunity to have fun," wrote Juliano Laran (University of Miami) and Chris Janiszewski (University of Florida, Gainesville).
In one study, the researchers asked participants to hold pieces of candy between their fingers, and put it in their mouths and then take it out and not touch it afterwards.
"We found that participants who are usually high in self-control perceived the initial candy task-which involved touching, but not eating Skittles and M and Ms-as an opportunity to have fun (they were playing with candy)," they wrote.
On the other hand, if you look at controlling your cravings as an obligation, it becomes a tough task.
"These results show that low self-control people can be made to act like high self-control people and show regulatory success if tasks that involve exerting self-control are framed in a way that people will perceive it as fun and not work," the authors conclude.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.