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.

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    • "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. "
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    • "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. "
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