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The Effects of Self-Control on Subsequent Purchasing Decisions


  • Palma, Marco
  • Segovia, Michelle
  • Kassas, Bachir
  • Ribera, Luis
  • Hall, Charles


The effect of self-control on individual behavior has long been a subject of debate. The psychology literature has advanced three theories to explain self-control. However, those theories carry contradictory predictions as they were restricted to linear relationships between an initial act of self-control and subsequent self-control ability. This study uses biometric measures collected in a random assignment experiment to look at possible non-linear effects. This was done by considering the variation in the effect of an initial self-control task on purchasing decisions as compliance rates with the task change. There is strong evidence pointing towards the conclusion that the self-control theories are not mutually exclusive and are actually operating simultaneously. Specifically, moderate self-control exertion in the initial task was tied to the knowledge structure and higher self-control ability in subsequent purchasing decisions. On the other hand, exerting self-control beyond a certain threshold caused a fatigue effect, which made the resource depletion models more dominant and resulted in lower self-control ability in subsequent purchasing tasks. This result was robust across several model specifications. Moreover, data from brain activation capturing approach behavior in the prefrontal cortex conformed to those findings. Finally, it seems that males were not only able to access the knowledge structure more quickly than females, but they also had higher fatigue thresholds and were able to withstand higher levels of self-control in the initial task before resource depletion became dominant.

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  • Palma, Marco & Segovia, Michelle & Kassas, Bachir & Ribera, Luis & Hall, Charles, 2016. "The Effects of Self-Control on Subsequent Purchasing Decisions," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235987, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea16:235987

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kathleen D. Vohs & Ronald J. Faber, 2007. "Spent Resources: Self-Regulatory Resource Availability Affects Impulse Buying," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(4), pages 537-547, January.
    2. Barnes, Christopher M. & Schaubroeck, John & Huth, Megan & Ghumman, Sonia, 2011. "Lack of sleep and unethical conduct," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 169-180, July.
    3. Gathergood, John & Weber, Jörg, 2014. "Self-control, financial literacy & the co-holding puzzle," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PB), pages 455-469.
    4. Oaten, Megan & Cheng, Ken, 2007. "Improvements in self-control from financial monitoring," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 487-501, August.
    5. Will Dobbie & Paige Marta Skiba, 2013. "Information Asymmetries in Consumer Credit Markets: Evidence from Payday Lending," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 256-282, October.
    6. Gino, Francesca & Schweitzer, Maurice E. & Mead, Nicole L. & Ariely, Dan, 2011. "Unable to resist temptation: How self-control depletion promotes unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 191-203, July.
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    Consumer/Household Economics; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Health Economics and Policy; Institutional and Behavioral Economics;

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