Superordinate Goal Violation and Anticipated Regret Characterize Self-Control Failures
Self-control is a prominent topic in consumer research, where it is often conceptualized as the abstinence from hedonic consumption. We examine whether this conceptualization accurately captures consumers’ experiences of self-control conflicts and self-control failures in light of seminal self-control theories in economics and psychology. In four scenario-based experiments and one experiment involving real choices, we show that consumers’ experience of self-control failures is represented by choices in violation of long-term goals accompanied by anticipated regret, rather than by the choice of hedonic over utilitarian consumption. These results have important methodological, theoretical, and practical implications. Methodologically, they highlight the need of experimental paradigms with higher construct validity. Theoretically, they help elucidate how self-control is distinct from impatience and self-regulation. Practically, they provide a rich set of hypotheses that allow for deducing interventions on the individual and public policy level to help consumers exert self-control.