This research investigates the effects of refraining from a purchase temptation at one point in time on choices made at a subsequent opportunity to purchase or consume a tempting product. Four experiments involving scenarios and real decisions demonstrate that the salience of restraint at a prior impulse buying opportunity causes consumers to reward themselves subsequently by choosing indulgence over non-indulgence. We show that indulgence is likely to increase only when prior restraint is salient and hence can be used as a justification. As expected, an index of reasons for vs. against buying mediates the relationship between prior impulse purchase decision and indulgent choice. In further support of the mechanism, we find that prior indulgence can have the same effect as prior restraint, if the prior indulgence is made justifiable. Finally, we show that prior shopping restraint can increase indulgence without a corresponding increase in self-esteem. These findings extend our understanding of self-regulation and demonstrate that everyday consumer decisions such as responses to impulse buying opportunities can have consequential downstream effects.
The PDF above is a preprint version of the article. The final version may be found at < http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcps.2009.02.016 >.