When Self-Regulation Leads to Overconsumption: the Goal-Progress Illusion

Alexander Chernev, Northwestern University, USA
David Gal, Northwestern University, USA
We show that when individuals face an option that represents one of two competing goals (e.g., a tasty but high-calorie steak), adding another option that favors the alternative goal (e.g., a low-calorie salad) will increase the preference for a combined option that represents both goals (steak and salad). Choosing the combined option, however, increases individuals’ calorie intake – an outcome counter to their goal of consuming fewer calories. We explain this pattern of behavior by theorizing that individuals evaluate choice options not only based on their actual performance (e.g., amount of calories) but also based on their fit with the activated goal. We test this proposition in a series of four experiments.
[ to cite ]:
Alexander Chernev and David Gal (2009) ,"When Self-Regulation Leads to Overconsumption: the Goal-Progress Illusion", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 181-183.