Operations, Information and Decisions Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

11-2012

Publication Source

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes

Volume

119

Issue

2

Start Page

163

Last Page

176

DOI

10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.07.003

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of uncertainty about the future on whether individuals select want options (e.g., junk foods, lowbrow films) or instead exert self-control and select should options (e.g., healthy foods, highbrow films). Consistent with the ego-depletion literature, which suggests that self-control resembles an exhaustible muscle, coping with uncertainty about what the future may bring reduces self-control resources and increases individuals’ tendency to favor want options over should options. These results persist when real uncertainty is induced, when the salience of naturally-arising uncertainty is heightened and when individuals are able to make choices contingent upon the outcomes of uncertain events. Overall, this work suggests that reducing uncertainty in a decision maker’s environment may have important spillover effects, leading to less impulsive choices.

Keywords

Want/should conflict, self-control, uncertainty, ego depletion

 

Date Posted: 27 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.