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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Haunts or Helps from the Past: Understanding the Effect of Recall on Current Self-Control

Hristina Nikolova, Cait Lamberton, and Kelly L. Haws
Journal of Consumer Psychology
Available online 30 June 2015

Scientific Abstract

Conventional wisdom suggests that remembering our past, and particularly, the mistakes we have made, will help us make better decisions in the present. But how successful is this practice in the domain of self-control? Our work examines how the content of consumers' recollections (past self-control successes versus failures) and the subjective difficulty with which this content comes to mind (easily or with difficulty) jointly shape consumers' self-control decisions. When successes are easy to recall, we find that people display more self-control than when they have difficulty recalling successes.  However, recalling failures prompts indulgence regardless of its difficulty. We suggest that these differences in behavior may exist because recalling failures has substantially different affective and cognitive consequences than does recalling successes. Consistent with this theory, we demonstrate that self-certainty moderates the effects of recall on self-control. Taken together, this work enhances our understanding of self-control, self-perceptions, and metacognition.

Layperson interpretation can be found here.

Professional article can be found here.