Sadness Prevents Self-Indulgence, Study


Sadness prevents self-indulgence, according to a study. Researchers say that emotions influence self-indulgent habits/behaviour.

"We found that when people who are sad are exposed to pictures of indulgent food or indulgent words, their sadness highlights the negative consequences of indulging and encourages them to indulge less," Anthony Salerno, a doctoral candidate at the University of Miami School of Business, said in a press release.

For the study, researchers exposed participants to advertisements with either indulgent words or images (i.e. pizza, chocolate cake), or neutral words or images (i.e. washing machines, electric cars). They were then asked to write about things that made them feel unhappy. At the end of the study, the participants indulged in foods like M&M's or chocolate chip cookies.

The researchers found that participants, who were shown pleasurable information and then made to describe sad incidents, indulged themselves less with unhealthy food choices. On the other hand, those, who were exposed to neutral information and made to recollect depressing events, were identified with increased consumption of indulgent foods.

In a second experiment, the researchers divided the participants into two groups - one group created a list of their favourite indulgent activities, while the other was asked to note down its routine activities. The participants then were involved in one of four emotional activities: sad, angry, frightening and neutral.

The participants then watched a video about origami while eating M&Ms.

The researchers found that students from the second group ate more M&Ms when they experienced negative emotions. On the other hand, when the students from the first group experienced sadness, they were less likely to eat more M&Ms.

University of Florida marketing professor Chris Janiszewski said that when people are depressed, they tend to eat in lower quantities.

"Anytime you feel sad, you try to avoid pursuing goals that lead to outcomes that could induce further harm," Janiszewski said in a statement. During the pursuit of an indulgence goal, "...An experience of sadness should increase a person's sensitivity to the potentially harmful consequences of indulgent consumption, which, in turn, should decrease the desire to indulge."

The finding will be published in the Journal for Consumer Research in June.

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