Navigation Links
The paradox of temptation

Does the mere availability of something tempting weaken the will to resist? The answer is of more than theoretical interest to public health experts, and the problem goes far beyond serious addictive disorders. Just think of all those Christmas cookies in your office recently. As our national obesity crisis shows, difficulties with discipline and self-control are widespread and harmful.

Every self-control challenge is a tradeoff of one kind or another, and with chocolates and other desserts it's a tradeoff between satisfying a sweet tooth and commitment to good nutrition. Although it seems intuitively obvious that the dieter should not keep bonbons in every room of the house, psychological theory argues the opposite. According to counteractive self-control theory, we deflate desire for readily available temptation when indulging conflicts with pursuit of more important goals.

Three psychologists recently decided to test the paradoxical view of temptation based on counteractive self-control theory. Kristian Ove Myrseth and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago and Yaacov Trope of NYU predicted that increasing the availability of sweets would indeed deflate desire for them.

They tested this notion by offering women exiting the gym the choice between Power Bars or chocolates and asked them to rate their desire for each. Simple enough, but here's the twist. Some rated their desire before choosing, and others right after - but before eating. The idea was to compare desire for chocolate when it was readily available, and when it was made unavailable.

The psychologists figured that young women at a gym would tend to be health conscious - and thus conflicted over the choice. The results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that the women did indeed prefer the healthy power bars - that is, they devalued the chocolates. However, this preference disappeared as soon as they made their choice, and the unhealthy temptation was no longer an option. So it appears that self-control does in fact operate paradoxically, by actually diminishing desire for what's tempting and accessible.

The authors suggest that this happens because availability of sweets is threatening to the loftier goal of good health, and so causes the mind to damp down desire to protect the greater good. In short, by making a tempting sweet readily available, we make it less tempting.

But what if you could just change your mind? What if you had the option to ditch the health food and scarf down the chocolate instead? Does the mind keep desire flat for as long as the temptation remains an option? The psychologists decided to test this, but not with chocolates. Instead they created a self-control tradeoff involving work and play. They studied a group of graduate students in the University of Chicago's school of business. Unhappily, these MBA students were enrolled in a really boring, although required, class. The researchers had these students rate the desirability of a number of leisure activities, like going to movies and partying and so forth.

Some rated leisure activity while they still had the option of dropping the boring class. Others did the rating after the deadline had passed for dropping the class. In other words, for some the decision was a done deal, while for others it was reversible. They found that, as long as they had the option of blowing off work for play, they continued to dampen their urge to play. It appears the mind protects itself against succumbing to temptation for as long as it must, and it does this by devaluing what's most available.

These findings are a bit puzzling, and the authors raise some intriguing questions: Would dieters actually benefit from the sight of the dessert cart rolling by? Should alcoholics keep liquor in the liquor cabinet- paradoxically to help with self-control? The intuitive answer to such questions is no, but the evidence from these studies suggests that it might not be a resounding no.


Contact: Barbara Isanski
Association for Psychological Science

Related medicine news :

1. French paradox redux? US vs. French on being full
2. Paradoxical Alzheimers finding may shed new light on memory loss
3. Got sugar? Glucose affects our ability to resist temptation
4. Dont throw the candy out: Temptation leads to moderation
5. Navigating Holiday Taste Temptations
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/13/2015)... ... October 13, 2015 , ... ... development solutions for drugs, biologics, consumer health and animal health products, today announced ... will lead a new, dedicated global team of drug development and technology experts. ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... Nashville, TN (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2015 ... ... the recipients of its biannual Heroes in Recovery Awards at Foundations Recovery Network’s ... Foundations Recovery Network presented the one-of-a-kind awards to Noah Levine and Dean Dauphinais ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... ... October 13, 2015 , ... North American Tool Corporation has been named ... National Meeting in Rosemont, IL on October 4th. , Each year, ... excellence that customers have come to expect from members of IBC’s marketing group. ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... ... ... of the “Check-In and Win a Vacation to Hawaii” Facebook contest at Gold’s Gym ... didn’t believe I could win a free vacation simply by checking in on Facebook every ... and invest in my own health – and now I’m going to Hawaii.” , Thanks ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... ... , ... Amerec , a leader in the steam and sauna industry, ... be displaying custom sauna and steam room solutions at the ISPA Conference & Expo ... customers, SpaEquip is recognized for their ability to assist in the design and implementation ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2015)... Minn. , Oct. 12, 2015 Device ... a need to help integrate these devices into existing ... of ergonomic healthcare mounting and mobility solutions, has launched ... lightest cart yet, for a wide array of laptops ... Cart SV10 was developed exclusively for Microsoft Surface and ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... , October 12, 2015 ... Forecast to grow at 7.2% CAGR, microscopy ... by rising focus on nanotechnology, technological advancements, ... research report available with ... . --> Complete report ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... England , Oct. 12, 2015 Indivior PLC ... the District of Delaware granted the ... Teva Pharmaceuticals, Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) No. 205299 to ... SUBOXONE® (buprenorphine and naloxone) Sublingual Film (CIII) in ... --> Since August 2013, Indivior has received Paragraph ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: