Does trait self-control predict weaker desire for unhealthy stimuli? A lab-based study of unhealthy snack intake

Haynes, A, Kemps, E and Moffitt, R 2016, 'Does trait self-control predict weaker desire for unhealthy stimuli? A lab-based study of unhealthy snack intake', Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 89, pp. 69-74.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Does trait self-control predict weaker desire for unhealthy stimuli? A lab-based study of unhealthy snack intake
Author(s) Haynes, A
Kemps, E
Moffitt, R
Year 2016
Journal name Personality and Individual Differences
Volume number 89
Start page 69
End page 74
Total pages 6
Publisher Pergamon Press
Abstract Traditionally, self-control has been conceptualized as the effortful overcoming of desires in order to enact goal-consistent behavior. Several researchers have suggested that instead, self-control is effortless, as individuals with high self-control experience less intense desire that conflicts with valued goals. The current study tested whether the relationship between trait self-control and snack intake was mediated by desire strength, or whether those with higher trait self-control were better able to overcome desire to indulge in unhealthy food, controlling for aspects of the food environment and goal motivation. A sample of women with the goal of eating healthily for weight management (N= 134) completed a lab-based assessment of snack food consumption and self-report measures of desire strength and trait self-control (generic self-control, and both inhibitory and initiatory subcomponents). As expected, desire strength mediated the relationship between generic self-control and intake, such that higher self-control was related to lower snack intake indirectly via lower desire strength. The relationship between desire and intake was consistent across self-control levels. The same pattern of results emerged for both inhibitory and initiatory self-control. These findings support the contemporary conceptualization of self-control as being effortless due to the reduced strength of unhealthy desires.
Subject Educational Psychology
Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Sport and Exercise Psychology
Keyword(s) Desire
Food intake
Goal-directed behavior
Inhibitory self-control
Initiatory self-control
Self-control
Weight-management goal
DOI - identifier 10.1016/j.paid.2015.09.049
Copyright notice © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
ISSN 0191-8869
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