"Sticky Desires or Tricky Self-Control? Dynamics of Attentional Biases in Responses to Temptations"



Most prior work on impulsive behavior has focused on failure of self-control as the reason for indulgence. Based on dual-process models, we suggest that indulgence may also be driven by stronger desires rather than weak self-control. We examine the role of attentional biases for indulgences among impulsive (versus prudent) people in explaining consumption behavior. Using a visual probe task, we examine whether attentional biases for temptations emerge as initial orienting towards temptations or an inability to disengage from them. We investigate whether these biases affect impulsive behavior. Results show that while impulsive people exhibit both forms of bias towards temptations, their inability to disengage attention is what drives the extent to which they indulge. In order to test the process, we use a novel continuous measure of approach-avoidance on a 2-D grid and show that impulsive people whose attention is drawn towards tempting options subsequently display greater recurrence of desires and get stuck in states of desire for longer periods of time compared to prudent individuals; however, such impulsive individuals do not show a weakening avoidance reaction over time, suggesting a dissociation between desire and self-control.
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Dr. S. Puntoni