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

Grubiak, Kevin and Isoni, Andrea and Sugden, Robert and Wang, Mengjie and Zheng, Jiwei (2024) Taking the New Year’s Resolution Test seriously : Eliciting individuals’ judgements about self-control and spontaneity. Behavioural Public Policy, 8 (1). pp. 1-23. ISSN 2398-0648

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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:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Behavioural Public Policy
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The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Behavioural Public Policy, ? (?), pp ?-?, 2022, © 2022 Cambridge University Press.
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Deposited On:
05 Jan 2022 10:25
Last Modified:
18 May 2024 01:46