The effect of preference modality on self-control

Anne-Kathrin Klesse, J. Levav, C. Goukens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The marketplace affords consumers various modalities to express their preferences (e.g., by pressing a button on a vending machine or making an oral request at a restaurant). In this paper, we compare speaking to manual preference expression modalities (button pressing, writing, and taking) and study their effect on self-control dilemmas. Based on studies of the Stroop task and on neuroscientific evidence, we predict that speaking is less likely than motor movement to evoke self-control. Our prediction relies on the observation that different expression modalities activate different regions of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and, hence, may influence the extent to which emotions rather than cognitions determine an individual’s decision. In six studies conducted both in the lab and the field, we show that speaking prompts more indulgent choice than manual modalities (studies 1a,b-4), but not when individuals speak in a foreign language (study 5).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-550
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • preference expression modalities
  • speech
  • motor movements
  • self-control
  • indulgence


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