Biscuits, self-control, chocolate cakes and response conflicts: the influence of trait self-control and temptation strength on the conflict between one’s short and long-term goals
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This study investigated in what way one’s level of trait self-control, as well as the strength of a temptation influences the magnitude and process of a response conflict. To gain insight into this, a digital mouse tracker categorization task was used, in which participants categorized foods of varying temptation strength. Participants were students at Utrecht University. Prior to starting the task, they filled in the Brief Self-Control Scale to assess their level of trait self-control. Contrary to expectations, results from the categorization task indicated the magnitude of a response conflict appeared to be lower in participants with a higher level of trait self-control. An interaction was found between temptation strength and the level of trait self-control, influencing this magnitude: a higher magnitude was observed for people lower in self-control than for people higher in self-control. The size difference in the magnitude of a response conflict between people high and low self-control was bigger when pictures of weakly tempting food were shown than for when pictures of highly tempting food were shown. For the process of a response conflict, no main effect of the level of trait self-control was found. There was no interaction between the temptation strength of level of trait self-control for the process of a response conflict. Based on these results, suggestions for future research are given.