Your personality type influences how much self-control you have

January 23, 2008

A new study from Northwestern introduces personality types used frequently in consumer research to the realm of self-improvement. People are motivated by one of two fundamental needs: they are either "promotion-focused," seeking products that will help them achieve hopes and aspirations, or they are "prevention-focused," seeking items that help achieve a need for safety and security. According to the research, people are better able to exercise self-control when they choose goal-pursuit strategies - such as diets or money management - that "fit" with their promotion or prevention focus.

"This research has important implications for consumer welfare," explain Jiewen Hong and Angela Y. Lee (both of Northwestern University) in the February issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. "While self-help remedies are saturating the market, resisting temptations remains a strenuous process and a constant struggle for many people. The data reported in this research offer an important step toward understanding self-control and highlight the benefits of adopting the right goal pursuit strategies."

Given their concern for growth and accomplishments, promotion-focused individuals experience "fit" when they adopt strategies that strive toward gains. They experience "nonfit" when they adopt vigilance strategies that guard against losses, the researchers explain. In contrast, prevention-focused individuals experience "fit" when they adopt vigilance strategies to address their concern for safety and security.

In the study, adoption of strategies that "fit" was reflected in having promotion- or prevention-focused individuals list either how they anticipated they would achieve their aspiration (i.e., "What are some things you can do to make sure everything goes right"") or how they would fulfill their obligation (i.e., "What are some of the things you can do to avoid anything that could go wrong"")

In one study, participants who had filled out the questionnaire were then asked to choose between an apple and a chocolate bar as a snack. A remarkable 80 percent of those who had been asked to think about strategies that "fit" with their focus chose the apple, while only 20 percent of those who adopted conflicting strategies chose the apple.

Another experiment had particularly important real-world implications, gauging research participants' willingness to get tested for hepatitis. Getting diagnostic screening for most medical conditions is considered inconvenient, unpleasant, and a hassle - it requires self-control to get tested, especially if you consider yourself low-risk.

Among participants who perceived themselves to be at low risk, those who adopted goal pursuit strategies that fit their promotion or prevention focus were more willing to get tested for hepatitis than those who were asked to think about strategies that did not fit with their pre-determined focus.

Importantly, people seemed unaware of these effects and didn't select strategies that fit their focus when offered the choice.

"[We] find that when people adopt goal pursuit strategies that fit with their promotion or prevention focus, they have better self-control. In contrast, their self-control is weakened when they adopt goal pursuit strategies that conflict with their focus," the researchers explain.

They conclude: "Self-control is not just about doing the right things, but also about doing things the right way."
-end-
Jiewen Hong and Angela Y. Lee, "Be Fit and Be Strong: Mastering Self-Regulation through Regulatory Fit." Journal of Consumer Research: February 2008.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Consumer Research Articles from Brightsurf:

VAT cuts do not increase consumer purchasing power
An empirical study published in the Journal of Political Economy finds that VAT cuts are less likely to be passed on to consumer prices than VAT hikes.

Consumer-created social media visuals capture consumer brand perceptions
CATONSVILLE, MD, July 13, 2020 - New research has found that there is a strong link between the visual portrayal of a brand in online imagery created by consumers and the larger brand perceptions.

Coconut confusion reveals consumer conundrum
Coconut oil production may be more damaging to the environment than palm oil, researchers say.

Selling something? Tap into consumer arrogance
In today's world of consumption, likes and shares, a new study shows that that leveraging consumer arrogance might be marketers' most effective strategy for promoting their brands and products.

New research says displaying fake reviews increases consumer trust in platforms by 80%
Many people are using COVID-19 quarantine to get projects done at home, meaning plenty of online shopping for tools and supplies.

Government's stimulus program to boost consumer spending
The world has been experiencing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Want to stop consumer hoarding in times of crisis?
Consumer stockpiling and hoarding took center stage in recent months as the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world, and with it, panic buying on the part of millions.

Flavor research for consumer protection
In 2013, the German Stiftung Warentest found harmful benzene in drinks with cherry flavor.

Boosting the impact of consumer research in the world
The authors urge consumer researchers to break their self-imposed boundaries in order to broaden their impact, lest they become irrelevant to non-academic marketing stakeholders and cede influence to non-marketing academic disciplines.

Credit counseling may help reduce consumer debt
By the end of fourth quarter 2018, total household debt in the United States reached a new high of $13.54 trillion.

Read More: Consumer Research News and Consumer Research Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.