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PLoS One. 2018 Apr 30;13(4):e0196269. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196269. eCollection 2018.

Mindset switching increases the use of 'want-based' over 'should-based' behaviors.

Author information

School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
Faculty of Economics and Business, HRM & OB, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China.


This study examines the consequences of mindset switching on behavioral choices in want/should conflicts. Building on the insights of the ego depletion literature, we propose that mindset switching depletes individuals' self-control resources and therefore prompts the choice of want behavior, which provides immediate pleasure, over should behavior, which provides long-term utility. Four laboratory experiments with university students that stimulated individuals to switch mindsets were conducted to test our hypotheses. Experiment 1 demonstrated that switching between individualist and collectivist mindsets increased the subjects' tendency to prefer popular magazines over scientific journals. Experiment 2 replicated the results by testing the relationship between an abstract/concrete mindset-switching task and want/should online behavioral choices. The mediating effect of ego depletion was also supported. Experiment 3 retested the main effect of language-switching on reading choices, and the mediating effect of ego-depletion. Experiment 3 also tested the moderating effect of the Need for Cognition, and eliminated the alternative explanation of cognitive fatigue. In Experiment 4, actual food choices were used as the direct measure of want/should behaviors to test the robustness of our findings. The results consistently supported our hypotheses that mindset switching has significant effects on behavioral choices in terms of overindulgence, such as increasing want behavior and thus foregoing should behavior.

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