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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Oct;79(4):493-506.

Counteractive self-control in overcoming temptation.

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Department of Psychology, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


How do anticipated short-term costs affect the likelihood of engaging in an activity that has long-term benefits. Five studies investigated the factors that determine (a) how anticipated short-term costs elicit self-control efforts and (b) how self-control efforts eventually diminish the influence of short-term costs on behavior. The studies manipulated short-term costs (e.g., painful medical procedures) and assessed a variety of self-control strategies (e.g., self-imposed penalties for failure to undergo a test). The results show that short-term costs elicit self-control strategies for self rather than others, before rather than after behavior. when long-term benefits are important rather than unimportant and when the costs are moderate rather than extremely small or large. The results also show that the self-control efforts help people act according to their long-term interests.

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