Guilty Pleasures

Hark! Is that the ice cream truck I hear?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Trips are fun — but guilt trips are not! Guilt shapes much of our actions, for better or worse. But can we control those guilty feelings?

Kristen Duke and On Amir at UC San Diego separated guilt into two parts. DECISION guilt comes from the decision to act, like PLANNING to play hooky from work. ACTION guilt comes from DOING the deed — such as splurging on that new flat-screen TV!

So what happens when DECISION guilt and ACTION guilt are separated? To find out, Duke and Amir had research participants indulge in a guilty pleasure — caramel popcorn. Some snacked right away. Others were forced to wait several minutes.

It turns out, people who waited felt LESS guilty! Separating the decision from the action raised anticipation and lowered self-control. This was the key to guilt-free indulging!

These results can help us to understand consumer behavior trends. So, why should we pre-book that luxury vacation? When it’s go-time, you might feel less spending guilt and have more fun!

In the meantime, I guess I WILL have ice cream… tomorrow!