Temptation-based reasoning: When tempted, everything becomes a (better) reason to indulge

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Building on theories of motivated reasoning and reason-based choice, we propose that people interpret reasons for indulgence in a different light depending on how tempting behavior is. Experiments 1a and 1b find that the more tempting the behavior is, the more people think a given reason ("it is a Tuesday") is an acceptable reason to indulge. Furthermore, we find that both recalled prior good behavior (Experiment 2a) and recalled prior frustrations (Experiment 2b) are interpreted as good reasons to indulge when confronted with tempting behavior. Finally, Experiment 3 replicates that people see a prior good deed (taking part in the studies) as a better reason for indulgence when the indulgence is more tempting, which makes them more likely to actually choose an unhealthy food option. This process of temptation-based reasoning sheds new light on existing theories on how people deal with temptations, notably those on self-licensing, comfort buying, and comfort eating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-209
JournalJournal of Marketing Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • motivated reasoning
  • reason-based choice
  • temptation
  • indulgence
  • self-licensing


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