It was(n't) me: Exercising restraint when choices appear self-diagnostic.

Abstract

This research tests the hypothesis that individuals exercise restraint for actions that reflect on their self-concept (i.e., self-diagnostic actions). Experiments 1 and 2 show an action framed as occurring at the beginning or end (vs. middle) of a constructed sequence is seen as more self-diagnostic. Accordingly, Experiment 3 finds more restraint in snack choices at the framed beginning or end (vs. middle). Furthermore, the degree of importance of a goal-which reflects its centrality to the self-concept-determines responses to self-diagnosticity cues such as framed positions. Specifically, participants committed to financial goals (Experiment 4) and health goals (Experiment 5) were more likely to make decisions consistent with these goals at the beginning or end, but indulged and splurged in the middle. Experiment 6 shows similar patterns for judgments of magazine subscriptions, but only when individuals are faced with a decision that poses a self-control conflict for them. These results highlight the role of the self in self-control by demonstrating that people exercise restraint when decision contexts seem more telling of the self.

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