Date of this Version
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
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.
Want/should conflict, self-control, uncertainty, ego depletion
Milkman, K. L. (2012). Unsure What the Future Will Bring? You May Overindulge: Uncertainty Increases the Appeal of Wants Over Shoulds. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 119 (2), 163-176. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.07.003
Date Posted: 27 November 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.