The Costs and Benefits of Temptation in Consumer Choice

Research on consumer self-control focuses on the costs of facing tempting choices. Resisting temptation requires expending willpower (ego depletion) or constraining one’s choice set (precommitment). In contrast, we propose that temptation may also entail benefits that arise from what a choice tells consumers about themselves. Succumbing to temptation is a (costly) signal of weak willpower, whereas resisting temptation is a (beneficial) signal of strong willpower. These self-signaling costs and benefits depend not only on the chosen item but also on the non-chosen options in the opportunity set. Five experiments involving choices between tempting vices and unappealing virtues show that the self-signaling value of the non-chosen options (1) enhances or reduces the utility of the chosen item and (2) prospectively affects consumer preferences among the sets themselves.


Ravi Dhar and Klaus Wertenbroch (2009) ,"The Costs and Benefits of Temptation in Consumer Choice", in AP - Asia-Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8, eds. Sridhar Samu, Rajiv Vaidyanathan, and Dipankar Chakravarti, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 356-356.


Ravi Dhar, Yale University, USA
Klaus Wertenbroch, INSEAD Europe Campus, France


AP - Asia-Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8 | 2009

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