I Will Say No to That Cookie: How Imagined Future Self-regulation Drives Current Self-regulation
Jihye Park, Youjae Yi
Psychology & Marketing
Consumer decision processes in the real world often involve consideration of related choices that are temporally separated but similar in nature. In the context of sequential choices, this study examines how consumers respond to temptation in the present when imagining themselves engaging in their future behavior in the face of similar temptation. We demonstrate that consumers are more likely to resist (succumb to) current temptation when imagining themselves resisting (succumbing to) future temptation. Our investigation suggests a consistency effect whereby a future behavior involving temptation allows consumers to demonstrate that behavior when making an actual choice in the present. We further show that this consistency effect is stronger for nonimpulsive consumers and explained by the mechanism of counteractive construal, which occurs when consumers resolve a self-control conflict by exaggerating the threat of a temptation to a goal (e.g., construing a tempting food as containing more calories than it actually does). By delineating the effect of considering a future behavior on consumers' immediate self-regulation, this study offers implications for consumers who want to strengthen self-regulation, for marketers who need to strategically address consumer behavior, and for public policymakers who want to promote a healthier society.