Everyday temptations: An experience sampling study of desire, conflict, and self-control

Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, 5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 12/2011; 102(6):1318-35. DOI: 10.1037/a0026545
Source: PubMed


How often and how strongly do people experience desires, to what extent do their desires conflict with other goals, and how often and successfully do people exercise self-control to resist their desires? To investigate desire and attempts to control desire in everyday life, we conducted a large-scale experience sampling study based on a conceptual framework integrating desire strength, conflict, resistance (use of self-control), and behavior enactment. A sample of 205 adults wore beepers for a week. They furnished 7,827 reports of desire episodes and completed personality measures of behavioral inhibition system/behavior activation system (BIS/BAS) sensitivity, trait self-control, perfectionism, and narcissistic entitlement. Results suggest that desires are frequent, variable in intensity, and largely unproblematic. Those urges that do conflict with other goals tend to elicit resistance, with uneven success. Desire strength, conflict, resistance, and self-regulatory success were moderated in multiple ways by personality variables as well as by situational and interpersonal factors such as alcohol consumption, the mere presence of others, and the presence of others who already had enacted the desire in question. Whereas personality generally had a stronger impact on the dimensions of desire that emerged early in its course (desire strength and conflict), situational factors showed relatively more influence on components later in the process (resistance and behavior enactment). In total, these findings offer a novel and detailed perspective on the nature of everyday desires and associated self-regulatory successes and failures.

Download full-text


Available from: Wilhelm Hofmann,
  • Source
    • "" Baseline participants did not receive the rationale nor did they write an intention, they simply began with the attention task (described next). To assess desire, we examined the allocation of attention to the target temptation and the reading comprehension task (Hofmann & van Dillen, 2012). These measures were taken from previous work (Masicampo & Baumeister, 2011; Smallwood, Beach, Schooler, & Handy, 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The present investigation began with the conjecture that people may do better by saying “some other time” instead of “no, not ever” in response to temptations. Drawing from learning theories, we hypothesized that people interpret unspecific postponement (“I can have it some other time”) as a signal that they do not strongly value the postponed temptation. In this way, unspecific postponement may reduce desire for and consumption of postponed temptations, both in the present moment and over time. Four experiments tested those hypotheses. A multi-phase study using the free-choice paradigm supported the learning account for the effects of postponement: unspecific postponement reduced immediate desire for a self-selected temptation which in turn statistically accounted for diminished consumption during the week following the manipulation – but only when postponement was induced, not when it was imposed (Experiment 1). Supporting the hypothesis that unspecific but not specific postponement connotes weak valuation, only unspecific postponement reduced attention to (Experiment 2) and consumption of (Experiment 3) the postponed temptation. Additionally, unspecific postponement delayed consumption primarily among those who were highly motivated to forgo consumption of the temptation (Experiment 3). A final multi-phase experiment compared the effectiveness of unspecific postponement to the classic self-control mechanism of restraint, finding that unspecific postponement (vs. restraint) reduced consumption of the temptation in the heat of the moment and across one week post-manipulation (Experiment 4). The current research provides novel insight into self-control facilitation, the modification of desire, and the differential effects of unspecific and specific intentions for reducing unwanted behavior.
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 01/2016; · 5.08 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Given that many situations in daily life require self-control (Hofmann, Baumeister, Forster, & Vohs, 2012), self-control resources might diminish gradually throughout the day, resulting in a greater likelihood of selfregulatory failures, including lying or cheating, in the afternoon or evening as compared to the morning hours. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The Dark Triad of personality - narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy - is characterized by callous manipulation and social exploitation. Thus, dark personalities should be more prone to unethical behavior. Unethical behavior has been shown to vary during the course of the day with individuals displaying lower morality in the evening (Morning Morality Effect, MME). Hence, the present study investigated the association between the Dark Triad and unethical behavior as a function of time of day in an experimental design. Participants (N=195) completed the study either in the morning or in the evening. In one task, participants had the choice to cheat on a fictitious partner for monetary benefit at the partner's expense. In a second task, they had the opportunity to lie about their performance for personal gain. Machiavellianism scores positively predicted unethical behavior in the first task. In the second task, psychopathy scores positively predicted lying. Neither could the MME be replicated, nor did time of day moderate the influence of the Dark Triad on unethical behavior. Thus, the present study indicates that the dark traits are differentially related to aspects of unethical behavior, such that Machiavellians display a preference for complex deception, while psychopaths engage in impulsive cheating.
    Personality and Individual Differences 01/2016; 88:73-77. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2015.09.002 · 1.95 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Dual system models have been prominently used to investigate this form of conflict. One example of this approach is illustrated by the work of Hofmann and colleagues (Hofmann, Friese, & Wiers, 2008a; Hofmann, Baumeister, Forster et al., 2012) where the conflict involves the clash between the motivation to do something, what they call impulses or desires, and motivations not to do it, what they call restraint standards or reasoned attitudes. However, as these authors " terminology makes apparent, they are in fact addressing what I have been calling the regulation of motivational expression. "
    [Show description] [Hide description]
    DESCRIPTION: This short monograph describes the motivational system that underlies childbearing, as represented by the author's Traits-Desires-Intentions Behavior framework. It then examines how the three motivational components of this framework are related to consciousness, how they are affected by executive functions, and how they are represented and integrated within the brain. Finally, it briefly describes how this motivational system affects the set of behaviors that influence reproductive outcomes.
Show more