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You Don’t Blow Your Diet on Twinkies: Choices Processes When Choice Options Conflict with Background Goals

Posted: 23 Apr 2011 Last revised: 16 Jan 2018

Kelly Goldsmith

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Elizabeth Friedman

Yale University

Ravi Dhar

Yale School of Management - International Center for Finance

Date Written: January 15, 2018

Abstract

Although recent research has examined how people make choices when they have multiple active goals, no work to date has studied how people choose when all available options serve one goal (i.e., the decision goal) that conflicts with another goal that they hold (i.e., the background goal). For example, a person with a goal to lose weight may face a choice between complimentary desserts at the end of dinner, which serve the goal of indulging. We demonstrate that in such contexts, consumers are more likely to choose the option that is most instrumental in attaining the decision goal, even when that option poses the greatest violation of the background goal. This occurs because the experience of goal conflict increases consumers’ need to justify their choices. Since the consumer will violate her background goal by choosing any of the alternatives, we propose that the most justifiable reason for violating the background goal would be to maximize on the decision goal. Six experiments provide evidence for these effects and the underlying theoretical mechanism.

Keywords: goals, self-control, conflict, justification, choice

Suggested Citation

Goldsmith, Kelly and Friedman, Elizabeth and Dhar, Ravi, You Don’t Blow Your Diet on Twinkies: Choices Processes When Choice Options Conflict with Background Goals (January 15, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1817908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1817908

Kelly Goldsmith (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Elizabeth Friedman

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Ravi Dhar

Yale School of Management - International Center for Finance ( email )

Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

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