Taking the New Year’s Resolution Test seriously: Eliciting individuals’ judgements about self-control and spontaneity

Grubiak, Kevin, Isoni, Andrea, Sugden, Robert, Zheng, Jiwei and Wang, Mengjie (2022) Taking the New Year’s Resolution Test seriously: Eliciting individuals’ judgements about self-control and spontaneity. Behavioural Public Policy. ISSN 2398-063X

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Self-control failure occurs when an individual experiences a conflict between immediate desires and longer-term goals, recognises psychological forces that hinder goal-directed action, tries to resist them but fails in the attempt. Behavioural economists often invoke assumptions about self-control failure to justify proposals for policy interventions. These arguments require workable methods for eliciting individuals’ goals and for verifying occurrences of self-control failure, but developing such methods confronts two problems. First, it is not clear that individuals’ goals are context-independent. Second, facing an actual conflict between a desire and a self-acknowledged goal, a person may consciously choose not to resist the desire, thinking that spontaneity is more important than self-control. We address these issues through an online survey that elicited individuals’ self-reported judgements about the relative importance of self-control and spontaneity in conflicts between enjoyment and health-related goals. To test for context-sensitivity, the judgement-elicitation questions were preceded by a memory-recall task which directed participants’ attention either to the enjoyment of acting on desires or to the satisfaction of achieving goals. We found little evidence of context-sensitivity. In both treatments, however, judgements that favoured spontaneity were expressed with roughly the same frequency and strength as judgments that favoured self-control.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: spontaneity,self-control,libertarian paternalism,nudges,economics, econometrics and finance(all) ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2000
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Economics
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2021 01:40
Last Modified: 24 May 2023 04:56
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/82244
DOI: 10.1017/bpp.2021.41

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