The (In)Effectiveness of Self-Control Interventions
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In consumer domains such as spending and eating, researchers have demonstrated maladaptive patterns of behavior for individuals lower in self-control, but the effectiveness of many common strategies to boost consumer self-control remains underexplored in marketing and psychology literature. This dissertation is organized into three essays contributing to the marketing field's understanding of chronic self-control by investigating potential pitfalls to everyday self-control interventions. Essay 1 examines how perceptions of goal importance influence self-control decision making. Researchers have previously shown that people put more effort toward goals that are more important, effectively increasing their self-control. The current research shows that individuals with varying degrees of self-control respond differently to important goals and suggests that past experiences lead consumers with low self-control to interpret important goals as more difficult. The results of this essay highlight a severe limitation to a commonly used messaging strategy and suggest a supportive intervention. Essay 2 evaluates the disclosure of nutritional information as a strategy to influence self-control decision making. Past research has suggested that such disclosure is only effective in reducing obesity when consumers are motivated to seek out and process such information. Due to heightened conflict with hedonic goals, this essay examines and demonstrates a tendency for individuals low in eating self-control to ignore available nutritional information for indulgent foods, thereby heightening their enjoyment. Supporting evidence is presented using several different measures of attention to information and actual consumption. Essay 3 examines how perceptions of a food’s healthiness are influenced by prior exposure to other foods. Comparative evaluations advance our understanding of perceptions related to food consumption and how exposure to healthy foods may influence future eating choices. This research provides evidence across three studies that the healthiness of foods previously encountered influence healthiness perceptions of ambiguously healthy snacks, and importantly, this influence differs based on one’s self-control. Overall, this dissertation makes both theoretical and practical contributions to the fields of marketing and consumer psychology. The foci of this work are ineffective marketing and public policy interventions and the findings uncover backfire effects that may help facilitate better interventions in the future.
Davis, Scott Williams (2015). The (In)Effectiveness of Self-Control Interventions. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from