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Licensing Indulgence in the Present by Distorting Memories of Past Behavior

Frank May and Caglar Irmak

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 3, 624 - 641

Abstract: In the face of an opportunity to indulge, individuals may consult their memories in order to ascertain whether enough progress has been made toward a self-regulatory goal in order to justify indulgence. This research demonstrates that in such situations, impulsive individuals who possess a regulatory goal are likely to distort memories of past behavior, manufacturing goal progress in order to license indulgence in the present. In four studies, this effect is demonstrated in the domains of eating, spending, and studying, and alternative processes are ruled out. Furthermore, it is shown that perceptions of goal progress drive impulsive (vs. nonimpulsive) people's greater likelihood of engaging in behavior inconsistent with their regulatory goal. These findings provide insights into the domains of goal pursuit, impulsivity, and memory distortion.

Date: 2014
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