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How people use justifications to willingly give in to temptation

Taylor, Catherine (2012) How people use justifications to willingly give in to temptation. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis addresses a number of important issues regarding the use of justifications for self-indulgence. Justifications are the reasons or explanations that people give themselves in order to permit and rationalise behaving in ways that are inconsistent with their preferred standards (e.g., “Just this once won’t hurt!”, “I’ve had a hard day, I deserve a treat!”, “I can make up for this some other time!”). The primary aim of the thesis was to investigate the impact of using justifications for self-indulgence on self-regulation by investigating four questions: (a) whether or not the use of justifications undermines people’s intentions to reduce self-indulgence, (b) when people are most likely to use justifications to self-indulge, (c) whether or not the use of justifications has consequences for the emotions that people anticipate experiencing during and after self-indulgence, and (d) whether or not an intervention designed to prevent the use of justifications would promote effective self-regulation. Unhealthy eating was used throughout as a context for investigating these aims. The findings suggested that the use of justifications plays an important role in promoting self-indulgence. Specifically, Studies 1 and 2 showed that the use of justifications undermines strong (but not weak) intentions to reduce self-indulgence, such that those with strong intentions were more likely to use justifications and this relationship was associated with greater consumption of unhealthy foods. Study 2 also showed that the use of justifications is causally related to self-indulgence. Priming the use of justifications (in an ostensibly unrelated domain) led participants to indulge in a subsequent taste test (i.e., eat more M&M’s relative to unprimed participants). Studies 3 and 4 showed that participants were most likely to use justifications when they experienced self-regulatory conflict. Specifically, Studies 3 and 4 showed that greater conflict (as measured by ratings of the attractiveness and forbiddeness of a temptation) was associated with greater use of justifications to obtain and consume unhealthy foods. Studies 5 and 6 showed that the use of justifications engenders a mixture of positive and negative anticipated emotions during indulgence, and contrary to peoples’ expectations, leads to more anticipated negative emotions after indulgence. Finally, Study 7 showed that the tendency to use justifications can be overcome by using if-then plans called implementation intentions. Participants who formed implementation intentions designed to prevent the use of justifications were more successful in reducing self-indulgence (i.e., their consumption of unhealthy snacks foods) relative to participants without plans. The research described in this thesis has a number of theoretical and applied values. Specifically, the thesis extends existing research on the use of justifications and makes a number of important contributions to the literature on self-regulation; the thesis identifies the use of justifications as an additional explanation for why failures of self-regulation can occur even in those who are strongly committed to achieving important goals and provides an effective intervention for overcoming the impact of justifications.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Self-regulation, self-regulation failure, justifications, temptations, implementation intentions, self-control, self-control failure, mediation
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Psychology (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Catherine Taylor
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2012 09:28
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2229

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