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
Date Written: January 15, 2018
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
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