Format

Send to

Choose Destination
J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018 Jun;114(6):851-876. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000113.

Enacting rituals to improve self-control.

Author information

1
Department of Marketing, College of Business, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.
2
Management of Organizations Department, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
3
Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law, Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta.
4
Department of Behavioral Science, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.
5
Marketing Unit, Harvard Business School, Harvard University.
6
Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit, Harvard Business School, Harvard University.

Abstract

Rituals are predefined sequences of actions characterized by rigidity and repetition. We propose that enacting ritualized actions can enhance subjective feelings of self-discipline, such that rituals can be harnessed to improve behavioral self-control. We test this hypothesis in 6 experiments. A field experiment showed that engaging in a pre-eating ritual over a 5-day period helped participants reduce calorie intake (Experiment 1). Pairing a ritual with healthy eating behavior increased the likelihood of choosing healthy food in a subsequent decision (Experiment 2), and enacting a ritual before a food choice (i.e., without being integrated into the consumption process) promoted the choice of healthy food over unhealthy food (Experiments 3a and 3b). The positive effect of rituals on self-control held even when a set of ritualized gestures were not explicitly labeled as a ritual, and in other domains of behavioral self-control (i.e., prosocial decision-making; Experiments 4 and 5). Furthermore, Experiments 3a, 3b, 4, and 5 provided evidence for the psychological process underlying the effectiveness of rituals: heightened feelings of self-discipline. Finally, Experiment 5 showed that the absence of a self-control conflict eliminated the effect of rituals on behavior, demonstrating that rituals affect behavioral self-control specifically because they alter responses to self-control conflicts. We conclude by briefly describing the results of a number of additional experiments examining rituals in other self-control domains. Our body of evidence suggests that rituals can have beneficial consequences for self-control. (PsycINFO Database Record.

PMID:
29771567
DOI:
10.1037/pspa0000113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association
Loading ...
Support Center