Self-Regulation Failures in the Field: Investigating Spillovers from Morning Exercise to Food Choice
35 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 31, 2020
Choice spillovers across behavioral domains are important for market- ing, as they suggest that interventions in one choice domain may have far-reaching, and countervailing influences, in other domains. Using a novel dataset drawn from a university population, we study individual- level exercise behavior and food choices over the course of a year, and identify one such choice spillover. Specifically, we find that exercise per- formed before lunch is systematically correlated with a less healthy lunch choice: a behavior consistent with self-regulation failure. However, this effect is asymmetric, as a healthier lunch does not appear to have negative spillovers on exercise, instead increasing the probability of gym use later in the day. Survey evidence offers support of a self-licensing mechanism, while substantial timelags between gym use and meals cast doubt on a purely biological mechanism driving our results. We present a theoretical framework, based on reference-dependent preferences, which explain our main empirical findings.
Keywords: self-regulation, self-control, negative spillovers, exercise, healthy eating, mental accounting
JEL Classification: D10,D12,D62,I12,M30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation