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'I Don’t' versus 'I Can’t': When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior

39 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2012  

Vanessa M. Patrick

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Henrik Hagtvedt

Boston College - Department of Marketing

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

This research is based on the insight that the language we use to describe our choices serves as a feedback mechanism that either enhances or impedes our goal-directed behavior. Specifically, we investigate the influence of a linguistic element of self-talk, in which a refusal may be framed as “I don’t” (vs. “I can’t”), on resisting temptation and motivating goal-directed behavior. We present a set of four studies to demonstrate the efficacy of the “don’t” (vs. “can’t”) framing (studies 1-3) when the source of the goal is internal (vs. external; studies 2a and 2b), as well as the mediating role of psychological empowerment (studies 1, 2a, and 2b). We demonstrate this novel and effective refusal strategy with actual choice (study 1) and with behavioral intent (studies 2a and 2b) and also illustrate its applicability in the real world in a longitudinal intervention-based field study (study 3).

Suggested Citation

Patrick, Vanessa M. and Hagtvedt, Henrik, 'I Don’t' versus 'I Can’t': When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior (2012). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2086837

Vanessa M. Patrick (Contact Author)

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

Henrik Hagtvedt

Boston College - Department of Marketing ( email )

Fulton Hall 450D
140 Commonwealth Ave
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.bc.edu/schools/csom/faculty/bios/hagtvedt.html

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