Guilt Dynamics: Consequences of Temporally Separating Decisions and Actions

77 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017 Last revised: 8 Jun 2018

See all articles by Kristen Duke

Kristen Duke

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Rady School of Management

On Amir

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Date Written: September 5, 2017

Abstract

The current research demonstrates that temporally separating a consumer’s initial decision to perform a guilt-inducing action from its actual enactment reduces the guilt felt while acting. This hypothesis follows from the development of a dynamic model that unpacks guilt into two distinct components. Initially, one experiences decision guilt accompanying the decision to act or the realization that one will act; subsequently, one experiences action guilt while engaging in the guilt-inducing behavior. Four experiments and two pilot studies reveal that introducing a temporal “decision-enactment gap” enables decision guilt to decay in this interim period, which lowers the overall guilt experienced upon acting. In line with the self-regulative function of guilt, decision-enactment gaps also increase indulgent consumption and decrease post-behavior atonement. This decoupling process can thus alleviate guilt that might otherwise detract from experiences, but may come at a cost to self-control efforts. The authors discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

Keywords: guilt, self-control, emotion, time, indulgence, mental accounting

Suggested Citation

Duke, Kristen and Amir, On, Guilt Dynamics: Consequences of Temporally Separating Decisions and Actions (September 5, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3032674 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3032674

Kristen Duke (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

On Amir

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States
858-534-2023 (Phone)
858-534-0745 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://management.ucsd.edu/faculty/directory/amir/

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