How Self-Control Shapes the Meaning of Choice

14 Pages Posted: 3 May 2017 Last revised: 28 May 2017

See all articles by Aner Sela

Aner Sela

University of Florida - Marketing Department

Jonah A. Berger

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department

Joshua Kim

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business Administration, Students

Date Written: April 30, 2017

Abstract

Self-control is an important driver of choice, but might it also change choice’s meaning, making it seem less indicative of preference? Decades of research suggest that preference and choice are often intertwined. Choice often originates from one’s preferences. As a result, choice is often seen as a reflection of preference, leading people to infer their preferences by observing their own choices. We suggest that self-control attenuates this process. Because self-control often overrides personal desires in favor of external constraints, norms, and long-term considerations, we propose that self-control is associated with a sense of attenuated correspondence between choice and individual preference. Five experiments suggest that when the notion of self-control is salient, people are less likely to see their choices as reflecting their preferences or to infer preference from previous choices. As a result, evoking the notion of self-control attenuates the tendency to view choice as indicative of preference, even in contexts unrelated to where self-control was originally evoked. Thus, self-control shapes not only choice itself, but also the perceived meaning of choice.

Keywords: Self-control, Inferences, Choice, Preference, Self-perception

Suggested Citation

Sela, Aner and Berger, Jonah A. and Kim, Joshua, How Self-Control Shapes the Meaning of Choice (April 30, 2017). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 44, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2962435

Aner Sela (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Marketing Department ( email )

267F Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32611
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/view/anersela/home

Jonah A. Berger

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )

700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Joshua Kim

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business Administration, Students ( email )

Gainesville, FL
United States

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