Powerless against temptations? Say, ‘I don’t’!

Those who say "I don't" instead of "I can't" when faced with temptations are better able to resist them—be it chocolate, chicken wings or an extra helping of chips

Being able to resist temptations is not everyone's cup of tea. Sometimes the temptations are just too... irresistible like some a yummy pie or tasty street food. If you often travel down this road and succumb to temptations that you've promised yourself not to, there's some good news: resisting temptation is as easy as choosing the right words to say to yourself.

A woman trying to resist eating cake
Resisting temptations becomes much easier if you tell yourself 'I don't'

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, those who say "I don't" instead of "I can't" when faced with temptations are better able to resist them—be it chocolate, chicken wings or an extra helping of chips. "This insight is based on the notion that saying "I can't" to temptation inherently signals deprivation and the loss from giving up something desirable," write study authors Vanessa M. Patrick [University of Houston] and Henrik Hagtvedt [Boston College].

"For instance, when faced with a tempting slice of pumpkin pie, one's spontaneous response, 'I can't eat pumpkin pie' signals deprivation.

Saying 'I don't eat pumpkin pie' is more effective." This approach signals to oneself (and others) a sense of determination and empowerment, which makes the refusal strategy more effective.

The authors based their observations on four separate studies. They found that the "I don't" strategy increases one's  feelings of autonomy, control, and self-awareness; which is what brings about the positive behavioral change.

"What's great about this research is that it suggests a strategy that is simple, straightforward, and easy to implement. And most importantly…it works!" the authors conclude.

EurekAlert!

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