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In the present study, we used experience sampling to measure desires and desire regulation in everyday life. Our analysis included data from 205 adults, who furnished a total of 7,827 reports of their desires over the course of a week. Across various desire domains, results revealed substantial differences in desire frequency and strength, the degree of conflict between desires and other goals, and the likelihood of resisting desire and the success of this resistance. Desires for sleep and sex were experienced most intensively, whereas desires for tobacco and alcohol had the lowest average strength, despite the fact that these substances are thought of as addictive. Desires for leisure and sleep conflicted the most with other goals, and desires for media use and work brought about the most self-control failure. In addition, we observed support for a limited-resource model of self-control employing a novel operationalization of cumulative resource depletion: The frequency and recency of engaging in prior self-control negatively predicted people's success at resisting subsequent desires on the same day.
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RUNNING HEAD: Self-control in Everyday Life
What People Desire, Feel Conflicted About, and Try to Resist in Everyday Life
Wilhelm Hofmann1, Kathleen D. Vohs2, Roy F. Baumeister3
1 University of Chicago, USA
2 University of Minnesota, USA
3 Florida State University, USA
Psychological Science
Word count: (main text, acknowledgments, footnotes): 2,510
Please address correspondence concerning this article to:
Wilhelm Hofmann
Booth School of Business
The University of Chicago
5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Phone: 773.834.4348
Fax: 773.702.0458
Email: wilhelm.hofmann@chicagobooth.edu
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Abstract
We used experience sampling to measure desires and desire regulation in everyday life.
Over the course of a week, 205 adults furnished a total of 7,827 desire reports. Results revealed
substantial domain-related differences in desire frequency, strength, and degree of conflict with
other goals, as well as in the likelihood and success with which desires are resisted. Desires for
sleep and sex were experienced most intensively, whereas desires for tobacco and alcohol had
the lowest average desire strength despite being thought of as addictive. Desires for leisure and
sleep conflicted the most with other goals, and desires for media and work brought about the
most self-control failure. In addition, we observed support for a limited-resource model of self-
control employing a novel operationalization of cumulative resource depletion: the frequency
and recency of engaging in prior self-control negatively predicted people’s success at resisting
subsequent desires on the same day.
Keywords: Desire, Self-Control, Motivation, Experience Sampling, Ego Depletion
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Human beings sustain life by acting on their desires. Yet to act on every desire is
sometimes to court disaster, as illustrated by vivid examples ranging from the biblical Adam and
Eve to perennial sagas of politicians and other newsmakers. Social norms, morals, and the
contingencies of physical health dictate that many desires should be resisted: Schroeder (2007)
estimated that 40% of deaths in Western societies are caused by the long-term consequences of
acting on desires such as for tobacco, sex, alcohol, recreational drugs, and unhealthy food.
Although motivation is the basic driver of all animal behavior, humans have evolved an
advanced and sensitive capacity to restrain and override motivations (Baumeister, 2005; Mischel,
Cantor, & Feldman, 1996). Self-regulation is important for both theoretical and practical reasons.
Yet, the majority of research on self-regulation occurs in the laboratory (Hagger, Wood, Stiff, &
Chatzisarantis, 2010; Vohs & Baumeister, 2011). Little is known about what types of urges are
felt strongly (or only weakly), which urges conflict with other goals, and how successfully
people resist their urges. This knowledge can inform understandings of self-control, behavioral
change, and addiction.
The main goal of the present work was to assess and compare the base rates with which
various desires are experienced and resisted in people’s natural environments. We drew on
experience sampling methodology (Csikszentmihalyi & Larsen, 1987; Mehl & Conner, 2012) to
assess the frequency, intensity, conflict, resistance, and enactment of desires in everyday life.
Whereas previous self-regulation research has focused mainly on specific types of desire such as
eating, drinking, and sex in isolation from each other, we assessed the major desire domains
within the same study. Such benchmark information may not only reveal important differences
between desire domains but also help to identify previously under-researched topics of self-
regulation.
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The capacity for self-control may be relatively recent in evolutionary terms and therefore
fragile, as suggested by evidence that engaging in self-control appears to tax a limited resource
that, when low, makes subsequent self-control difficult (e.g., Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven,
& Tice, 1998; Vohs, Baumeister, & Ciarocco, 2005). The present study is the first to our
knowledge to test the nature and prevalence of resource depletion effects in the wild,” that is
outside of the laboratory. We investigated to whether the frequency and temporal closeness of
resisting desire affects people’s success at resisting subsequent desires on a given day.
Method
Sample
The sample included 208 participants (66% female; ages 18-55 years; M = 25.24, SD =
6.32) from the city and surrounding area of Würzburg, Germany. 73% of participants were
university students involved in 49 different fields of study (only N = 13 were psychology
students). The remaining participants were either employed (13.9%), trainees (3.4%), high-
school students (1.9%), unemployed (1.4%), temporary on leave (1%), retirees (1%) or other
(4.3%).1 Data from three participants were lost, leaving a final sample of 205 participants.
Procedure
Participants were provided with Blackberry Pocket Personal Data Assistants (PDAs) and
carried the device for seven consecutive days. Each day, seven signals were distributed
throughout 14 hours. Participants were reimbursed with approximately $28 to start the study and
additional incentives if they completed more than 80% of signals. On average, participants
completed 92.2% of signals, indicating a very high response rate.
Experience-Sampling Measures
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At each signal, participants indicated whether were currently experiencing a desire
(explained as a craving, urge, or longing to do certain things) or whether they had just been
experiencing a desire within the last 30 minutes. If they indicated a desire, they next indicated its
content from a list of 15 domains (food, nonalcoholic drinks, alcohol, coffee, tobacco, other
substances, sexual, media, spending, work, social, leisure, sleep, hygiene-related, other).
Participants indicated the strength of the desire on a scale from 0 (no desire at all) to 7
(irresistible), the degree to which the desire conflicted with other personal goal(s) on a scale
from 0 (no conflict at all) to 4 (very high conflict), the nature of the conflicting goal(s) (from a
list of 20 options; Supplementary Figure 2), whether they attempted to resist the desire (yes vs.
no), and whether they enacted the behavior implied by the desire at least to some extent (yes vs.
no). 2 Up to three desires could be reported any given measurement occasion (M = 1.14).
Participants gave 10,558 responses and reported a total of 7,827 desire episodes.
Resource Depletion Score
To investigate potential resource depletion effects over the course of the day, for each
desire episode we examined how often participants had already resisted a desire on the same day.
Because the limited-resource model holds that more recent resistance attempts should have a
greater impact than those distant in time (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007; Hagger, et al., 2010),
we weighted each resistance attempt according to the number of time blocks separating the
previous attempt from the episode to be predicted. For instance, predicting whether participants
enacted a behavior in block 7 (the last block of the day), a resistance attempt occuring in the
previous time block would receive a weight of 6 (the highest possible weight) whereas a
resistance attempt occuring in the first time block of the day would receive a weight of 1 (the
lowest nonzero weight). We summed these weighted incidents of resistance to create level-1
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depletion scores (i.e., one depletion score per measurement occasion). As depletion scores could
not be calculated with regard to desires occuring in block 1 of the dataset, these cases were
treated as missing.
Multilevel Analysis Strategy
Multilevel modeling (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002) was used to predict desire strength,
conflict, resistance, and enactment by desire domain on level 1, controlling for gender (weighted
effects coded) and age (centered) on level 2. Desire domain was effects-coded in order to allow
for a statistical comparison of each category (except the base category “other) with the grand
mean (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003). The binary variables of resistance and enactment
were analyzed using logistic multilevel regression (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002) and displayed
using probabilities derived from the estimated log-odds. To estimate self-regulatory failure rates
per domain, we estimated the likelihood of behavior enactment given resistance by including
resistance and its interaction with each domain, controlling for desire strength. To investigate
whether resource depletion affected self-control success, we regressed enactment on the resource
depletion score and its interaction with resistance, controlling for desire domain, desire strength,
time of day, gender, and age.
Results
Figure 1 illustrates desire frequency, desire strength, conflict with other goals, and self-
regulatory success (Supplementary Table 1 describes the data and significance tests). As
indicated by the size of the pie charts, different desires varied in frequency, χ²(14) = 6,972, p <
.001. Most frequent were desires to eat, drink, and sleep. Desires for leisure, social contact, and
media use also were frequently reported. Figure 2 shows that the frequency with which desires
were reported varied by time of day, χ²(224) = 1,166, p < .001. Some were more frequently
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experienced in the morning (e.g., for coffee) or evening hours (e.g., for alcohol, media, social
contact). Desire frequency also varied over the course of the week, χ²(1652) = 2,644, p < .001.
Figure 3 presents a descriptive snapshot of weekly desire trends. For instance, the urge to
consume alcohol was most prominent on Saturday nights, desire for coffee peaked—quite
characteristically—on Monday mornings, and desire to spend money peaked on Saturdays (in
Germany, shops are closed on Sundays). Perhaps surprisingly, the desire for sleep was frequent
throughout the day, rather than concentrated in morning or evening.
In terms of desire strength (x-axis, Figure 1), significantly above-average desires were
reported for sleep, sex, hygiene (e.g., to use bathroom), sports participation, social contact, and
non-alcoholic drinks. Despite the stereotype of powerfully addictive cravings, desires for tobacco
and alcohol had the lowest average desire strength.
Above-average levels of conflict (y-axis, Figure 1) were associated with desires for
leisure activities and sleep, followed by spending, sports, media use, and tobacco. Thirst, when
not specifically aimed at alcohol, was the least conflicted desire. The 7,573 conflicting goals
reported by participants were grouped into six categories: (1) Health-related goals (22.9%):
bodily fitness (n = 670), healthy eating (n = 554), reducing risk of health damages (n = 341),
healthy drinking (n = 157), and reducing risk of infections (n = 14); (2) abstinence/restraint
goals (9.1%): saving money (n = 331), ending a dependence (n = 155), remaining abstinent (n =
138), fidelity (n = 64); (3) achievement-related goals (28.1%): educational/academic
achievements (n = 1,489), professional achievements (n = 407), sport achievements (n = 229);
(4) social goals (10.6%): social appearance (n = 487), social recognition (n = 166), moral
integrity (n = 117), socializing (n = 30); (5) time use goals (28.9%): using time efficiently (n =
1,221), not delaying things/getting things done (n = 927), leisure/relaxation (n = 38); (6) other
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(0.5%). A connection graph (Supplementary Figure 2) illustrates that desires conflicted with
many other aims, including health, abstinence, achievement, social, and time use goals.
Self-control is often used to resist desires, especially when people experience conflict
(Baumeister & Heatherton, 1996; Mischel, et al., 1996). Above-average rates of resistance were
found for sleep, sexual desire, leisure, spending, and eating (Supplementary Table 1). Resistance
rates were below-average with regard to desires for social contact, alcohol, non-alcoholic drinks,
media use, and work.
We estimated self-regulation failure rates for each domain, defined as the proportion of
desires enacted despite participants’ having attempted to resist. Not all desires were resisted
equally well (Figure 1): Self-control failure rates were highest for desires to engage in media
activities, with 42% of those desires enacted even when people had attempted to resist. Resisting
the desire to work was likewise prone to fail. In contrast, people were relatively successful at
resisting sports inclinations, sexual urges, and spending impulses, which seem surprising given
the salience in modern culture of disastrous failures to control sexual impulses and urges to
spend money.
Resource Depletion Effect
In support of the strength model of self-regulation, we found that resource depletion
moderated the relationship between resistance and enactment, Blog = .03, p = .04, such that
resistance became less effective for high levels of resource depletion (Figure 4). The specificity
of the depletion effect was demonstrated by simple slope analyses showing that higher levels of
resource depletion predicted more behavioral enactment—but only for the desires that people
actively attempted to resist, Blog = .03, p = .01. Depletion scores did not predict enactment of
behaviors that reflected non-resisted desires, Blog = .00, p = .74.
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Ancillary analyses showed that the depletion effect was unaffected by the average daily
number of desires reported per participant, as average number of desires had no main effect on
enactment, B = -0.04, p = .24, and did not moderate the main effect of depletion, B = -0.0031, p
= .33, nor the crucial interaction between resistance and depletion, B = 0.0016, p = .81. However,
average number of desires moderated the main effect of resistance, B = -0.16, p = .01. The
negative effect indicates that people who reported a higher number of desires were better on
average at inhibiting their desires than those with a lower number of desires. Though speculative,
this finding may indicate a “training effect” such that people who generally experience a lot of
desires may get better at resisting them over time.
Moreover, the crucial resistance × depletion interaction remained significant when
restricting the analysis to only those desire occasions for which no desire from the same domain
had been reported earlier on the same day (66% of the database), Blog = .05, p = .02, which
supports the claim that self-regulatory resources are non-specific. Last, depletion scores did not
correlate with the likelihood of attempting to resist a desire, Blog = .009, p = .18. This null finding
suggests that resource depletion primarily affected people’s ability, rather than motivation, to
engage in self-control.
Discussion
Desire, conflict, and resistance are frequent and pervasive features of daily life. Although
modern civilization may involve advanced and sophisticated forms of behavior, the desires felt
most frequently pertained to basic bodily needs such as eating, drinking, and sleeping. The desire
for social contact also was prominent, reflecting the need to belong (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).
These desires were not only the most commonly felt but some of the most strongly felt too.
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In contrast, acquired tastes, including even those for supposedly addictive substances
such as tobacco, alcohol, and coffee, were below average in subjective strength. These findings
challenge the stereotype of addiction as driven by irresistibly strong desires. Given the range of
desires sampled in our database, it was surprising that those for sleep and leisure emerged as the
most problematic (i.e., conflicted) desires. These results suggest a pervasive tension between
natural inclinations to rest and relax and the multitude of work and other obligations.
The present findings also show that not all desires were resisted equally well: Desires to
work and use media were especially prone to be enacted despite resistance. Resisting the desire
to work when it conflicts with other goals such as socializing or leisure activities may be difficult
because work can define people’s identities, dictate many aspects of daily life, and invoke
penalties if important duties are shirked. Media desires such as checking emails, surfing the web,
texting, or watching television might be hard to resist in light of the constant availability, huge
appeal, and apparent low costs of these activities. Media consumption behaviors might, however,
turn into strong habits or forms of pathological media abuse (LaRose, 2010; Song, Larose,
Eastin, & Lin, 2004). Whether underregulation of media use causes serious problems for modern
Westerners is an intriguing issue.
The idea that self-control failure can be linked to a limited resource has been well
documented in laboratory studies (Hagger et al., 2010), but to our knowledge this is the first
investigation to establish that it is a phenomenon prevalent in everyday life. Using a novel
indirect operationalization that capitalized on people’s desire reports throughout the day, we
found that the more frequently and recently participants had resisted any earlier desire, the less
successful they were at resisting any other subsequent desire. This effect was robust across the
average number of daily desires and across thematically unrelated domains. These findings
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indicate that people become more vulnerable to succumbing to (even unrelated) impulses that
arise later in the day to the extent they restrain themselves earlier from enacting their desires.
They also suggest that the aftereffects of using self-control accumulate over longer time spans
than previously thought.
Together, the present data depict modern life as a welter of assorted desires marked by
frequent conflict and resistance, the latter with uneven success. Whereas most resistance attempts
are successful, a significant minority of attempts at self-control do fail, however, depending on
the kind of desire people attempt to control and on people’s self-control history over the course
of the day. Extrapolating from our findings, the average adult spends approximately eight hours
per day feeling desires, three hours resisting them, and a half an hour yielding to previously
resisted ones.
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References
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University Press.
Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, M., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the
active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1252-
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Baumeister, R. F., & Heatherton, T. F. (1996). Self-regulation failure: An overview.
Psychological Inquiry, 7, 1-15.
Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control.
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 351-355.
Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation
analysis for the behavioral sciences. (3 ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Larsen, R. E. (1987). Validity and reliability of the experience-
sampling method. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 175, 529-536.
Hagger, M. S., Wood, C., Stiff, C., & Chatzisarantis, N. L. (2010). Ego depletion and the
strength model of self-control: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 495-525.
Hofmann, W., Baumeister, R. F., Förster, G., & Vohs, K. D. (in press). Everyday temptations:
An experience sampling study on desire, conflict, and self-control. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology.
LaRose, R. (2010). The Problem of Media Habits. Communication Theory, 20, 194-222.
Mehl, M. R., & Conner, T. S. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of research methods for studying daily
life. New York: Guilford Press.
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Mischel, W., Cantor, N., & Feldman, S. (1996). Principles of self-regulation: The nature of will-
power and self-control. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology:
Handbook of basic principles (pp. 329-360). New York: Guilford.
Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models. Applications and data
analysis methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Schroeder, S. A. (2007). We can do better - Improving the health of the american people. New
England Journal of Medicine, 357, 1221-1228.
Song, I., Larose, R., Eastin, M. S., & Lin, C. A. (2004). Internet gratifications and Internet
addiction: On the uses and abuses of new media. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 7, 384-
394.
Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory,
and applications (Vol. 2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press.
Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., & Ciarocco, N. J. (2005). Self-Regulation and Self-Presentation:
Regulatory Resource Depletion Impairs Impression Management and Effortful Self-
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Acknowledgements
This research was supported by DFG grant HO 4175/3-1 to Wilhelm Hofmann, by NIH
grant 1RL1AA017541 to Roy Baumeister, and by McKnight Presidential and Land O’ Lakes
Professor of Excellence in Marketing funds to Kathleen Vohs.
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Footnotes
1 Preliminary analyses indicated that students and non-students mentioned desires with
remarkably similar relative frequency (Supplementary Figure 1), and that including student
status (yes vs. no) as a dummy moderated effects only with regard to a narrow subset of domains
for the analysis of strength and conflict (indicated in Supplementary Table 1), and not at all for
the analysis of resistance and enactment. We therefore concluded that the two subsamples are
largely comparable and therefore have reported the results for the full sample.
2 The analyses reported in this study are based on data that were collected in the Everyday
Temptation Study, a large experience sampling project on desire and self-control in everyday life.
The main analyses reported in this article do not overlap with other research focusing on
personality effects and situational factors (reported in Hofmann, Baumeister, Förster, & Vohs, in
press).
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Figure 1. A map of desire. The x-axis indicates desire strength, the y-axis degree of conflict.
Crossing lines represent sample means. The size of the pie charts represents the frequency of
desire occurrence. The lighter portions of the pie charts indicate the probability of successfully
using self-control (i.e., not enacting the desired behavior when attempting to resist), whereas the
darker portions indicate the probability of self-control failure (i.e., enacting the desired behavior
despite an attempt to resist).
Eating
Non-alcoholic drinks
Alcohol
Coffee
Sexual desire
Tobacco
Media
Spending
Social contact
Leisure
Hygiene
Work
Sports
Sleep
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0
Conflict
Desire Strength
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Figure 2. Proportions of desire types over the course of the day. Time of day (x-axis) is given in
the 24-hour time format for the range of the experience sampling window (8am to midnight).
Proportions are presented as a stack area chart on the y-axis, meaning that the cumulative
proportion of all desires (including no desire reports) within a given time period is always 100%.
Hence, the thickness of each color layer indicates how frequently a given desire was reported,
relative to the total number of reports furnished in a given time-interval (full hour ± 30 minutes).
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Relative proportions
Time of day
no desire
other
sleeping
sports
desire to work
personal hygiene
leisure
social contact
spending
media
tobacco
sexual desire
coffee
alcohol
non-alcoholic drinks
eating
18
81012 1416 1820 2224 810 1214 1618 2022 24 81012 1416 18 2022 24 81012 1416 1820 2224 810 1214 1618 2022 24 81012 14 1618 2022 24 81012 1416 1820 2224
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Figure 3. Weekly frequency distributions of selected desires. The primary x-axis (time) is given
in the 24-hour time format for the range of the experience sampling window on each day (8am to
midnight). The y-axis represents absolute frequencies.
0
10
20
30
40
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Eating
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Alcohol
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Coffee
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Sexual Desire
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Media
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Spending
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Social Contact
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Leisure
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Desire for Work
0
5
10
15
20
810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 810 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
Sleep
19
Figure 4. The effect of resource depletion on desire enactment. The y-axis depicts the probability
with which participants enacted a given desire. The probability of enactment is estimated
separately for occasions on which people attempted to resist the desire (red line) and for
occasions on which participants did not attempt to resist the desire (black line). The resource
depletion score reflects the number of previous resistance attempts (regardless of desire content)
on the same day. Previous resistance attempts were weighted such that more recent resistance
attempts received more weight than more temporally distant resistant attempts. The graph shows
that increasing levels of resource depletion (x-axis) increases the enactment of desires that
participants had attempted to resist, thus boosting self-control failure.
0.00
0.10
0.20
0.30
0.40
0.50
0.60
0.70
0.80
0.90
1.00
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Probability of enactment
Resource depletion score
No resistance Resistance
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SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL
What People Desire, Feel Conflicted About, and Try to Resist in Everyday Life
Wilhelm Hofmann1, Kathleen D. Vohs2, Roy F. Baumeister3
1 University of Chicago, USA
2 University of Minnesota, USA
3 Florida State University, USA
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Supplementary Table 1. Frequencies, desire strength, degree of conflict, probability of
resistance, and unsuccessful self-control (enactment despite attempting to resist) for the various
desires experienced
Desire content
Desire strength
Conflict
Prob.
resistance
Prob.
enactment
despite
resistance
Overall effect
χ² = 347***
χ² = 962***
χ² = 372***
χ² = 257***
Eating
4.03
0.84
b
0.44
a
0.22
a
Sleep
4.54
a
1.69
a
0.61
a
0.15
Non-alcoholic drinks
4.27
a, S
0.37
b, S
0.28
b
0.20
Media
3.65
b, S
1.32
a
0.23
b
0.42
a
Leisure
4.18
2.11
a, S
0.53
a
0.16
Social contact
4.29
a
0.99
b
0.33
b
0.13
Hygiene
4.35
a
0.73
b, S
0.43
0.15
Tobacco
3.54
b
1.28
a
0.39
0.17
Sexual desire
4.39
a
1.06
0.59
a
0.11
b
Work
4.05
0.64
b
0.15
b
0.43
a
Coffee
3.83
b
0.63
b
0.33
0.12
Alcohol
3.40
b
0.92
b
0.30
b
0.22
Sports
4.37
a
1.38
a, S
0.35
0.09
b
Spending
3.73
b
1.41
a
0.48
a
0.07
b
Note. Desire strength was measured on a scale from 0 (no desire at all) to 7 (irresistible). Conflict was measured
on a scale from 0 (no conflict at all) to 4 (very strong conflict). Probabilities range from 0 to 1. Means with
subscript a/b indicate means significantly above/below the average of the sample mean at p < .05. Means with
the subscript S or S indicate, respectively, that the mean for the student subsample (n = 150) was significantly
above or below the mean of the nonstudent sample (n = 55) in a given domain. “Overall effect” indicates the
statistical evaluation of the overall effect of desire content on the dependent variables (df = 14). *** p < .001.
22
Supplementary Figure 1. Proportion of desires reported by the student (n = 150) and
nonstudent (n = 55) subsamples over the experience sampling period.
28.1% 28.2%
10.8% 9.3%
8.7% 8.5%
8.3% 7.7%
7.4%
6.7%
6.6% 8.3%
5.8% 6.2%
4.7% 4.8%
4.5% 4.9%
3.2% 2.4%
2.5% 3.8%
2.8% 2.2%
2.6% 2.7%
2.1% 2.3%
1.9% 1.9%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Students Nonstudents
Observed Percentages
Other
Spending
Sports
Alcohol
Coffee
Work
Sexual desire
Tobacco
Hygiene
Social contact
Leisure
Media
Non-alcoholic drinks
Sleep
Eating
23
Supplementary Figure 2. Connection graph illustrating the links between desires (upper part)
and conflicting goals (lower part). The thickness of the connecting lines represents the log-
transformed frequency of combinations in the dataset that were mentioned at least five times,
with thicker lines representing more prominent self-regulatory conflicts. Participants could
mention multiple conflicting goals at a time. Goals were selected from a list of 20 categories, or
entered on the keyboard and later coded. The category “other” is not shown. Eating, media,
24
social contact, and leisure were the desires interconnected with the highest number of different
conflicting goals; coffee, spending, sports, and non-alcoholic drinks were connected with the
lowest number of different conflicting goals.
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