Bauer Business Focus

Vanessa Patrick, How To Fight Temptation (And Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions)

New research on temptation has big implications for both consumers and marketers.

Professor Vanessa Patrick
Vanessa Patrick, Bauer Professor of Marketing, Bauer College of Business, University of Houston

Every year, around this week, countless people ditch their New Year’s resolutions to eat better or to kick bad habits. A research paper just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looks at why people give in to temptation and what might be a better approach to dealing with it. Vanessa Patrick is Bauer Professor of Marketing at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business and is co-author of the paper. She joins Andrew Schneider on this week’s Bauer Business Focus.

 

Interview Highlights:

Why study temptation from a marketing perspective?

“Overconsumption is a huge issue, and marketers as well as consumers are concerned about how to best manage…temptation, so as to feel better about themselves, to enhance their wellbeing and happiness.”

 

What did you find in your research on this subject?

“The latest research really begins with the conjecture that we can use postponement to manage temptations, so instead of telling ourselves, ‘No, we can never have this temptation,’ and deprive ourselves of that feeling, we actually focus on…the management of desire by postponing the temptation to a future date.”

 

Postponing it how long?

“It’s putting it off indefinitely…When we feel desire towards an object, it’s a very hot feeling, and we are most likely to succumb to the temptation at that moment. By using the postponement strategy… not only do you manage your immediate desire for the temptation, later on, when we think back, we make the inference that we probably really didn’t want it that much anyway, and we are able to manage the desire over the longer term.”

 

Could you give an example of how that would work?

“I was at the University of Georgia, and I was taking a flight from Athens, Georgia to L.A., and I met a guy on the flight who said, ‘Oh, my God. You live in Athens? Peaches Fine Foods has the best fried chicken ever.’ And I couldn’t stop thinking about that fried chicken right through my entire L.A. trip. And then I got back to Athens, Georgia, and it was right on my way to work. And every single time I thought about fried chicken, I told myself, ‘I’ll have it later.’ And then I realized that I never really stopped at Peaches Fine Foods, pretty much ever.” [NOTE: Peaches Fine Foods is now closed.]

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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