Want to resist temptation? Just don't think about it!

Thinking versus temptation; one serves your long-term interest and the other provides immediate gratification, the questions is how do we control it?

November 7, 2011 14:03
1 minute read.
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Chocolate hearts 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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While women are sometimes accused of over-thinking certain decisions and men are thought to sometimes rush straight in, a new study recently threw up a surprising conclusion for both women and men everywhere: Don’t stop and think.

Sweet treats, beer, wine, potential partners; the list of temptations could go on, but at some point or another we have the desire to not give in to our impulses and to adhere to the long-term goals we have set ourselves.

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The hardest part, of course, it not giving in to temptation. It is here, however, that we need to make sense of two contradictory bodies of literature according to a study by Loran Nordgren and Eileen Chou at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. "One shows that the presence of temptation contorts cognition in ways that promote impulsive behavior” and the others, says Nordgren shows that “temptation engages protective [thought] processes that promote self-control.

Researchers have looked at the different tools we use, including attention and “motivated valuation” – if the reward is high then our motivation should also be high.

In one experiment, 49 male students (in committed relationships) were put in either a “hot” or “cool” state to see if this had an effect on their temptation. The men were shown erotic films, to create the “hot” effect, or a filmed fashion show to create the “cool” effect. Researchers then observed how long they gazed at the images of attractive women. Just a week later the men were told that the women were incoming students – therefore, potentially available. The findings show that this time the men gazed longer, leading to the conclusion that more temptation promoted less fidelity.

So what does this tell us exactly? “When you’re craving and being tempted, your rationalization succumbs and so, in a hot state, you have the devil on both shoulders” says Nordgren.

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