Dynamics of Self-Control During Choice and Post-Choice Consumption Quantity

Ga-Eun Grace OH*, Anirban MUKHOPADHYAY

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Observed choices between options representing a relative vice and a relative virtue have commonly been used as a measure of eating self-control in the literature. However, even though self-control operations may manifest across the post-choice consumption stage, either similarly or in different ways from the choice stage, most prior research has ignored consumption quantity of the chosen option. While the behavior of choosing a virtue instead of a vice does manifest self-control, we examine how this plays out in post-choice consumption. Specifically, we find that when processing resources are limited, after having chosen a virtue food, unrestrained eaters ironically consumed greater quantities and therefore more calories than restrained eaters (Study 1). This reflects more persistent self-control in the post-choice consumption stage among restrained eaters than unrestrained eaters, and occurs because choosing a virtue lowers accessibility of the self-control goal among unrestrained eaters relative to restrained eaters (Study 2), thereby increasing intake of the virtuous food. In contrast, subsequent to having chosen a vice, unrestrained eaters and restrained eaters did not show any such difference in intake (Study 1) or goal accessibility (Study 2). Together, these results reveal that persistence of self-control in the post-choice consumption stage depends on individuals’ dietary restraint and their initial exercise of self-control in the choice decision. The mere act of choosing a virtue satisfies unrestrained eaters’ self-control goal and leads to increased food intake, whereas the same act keeps the same goal activated among restrained eaters who reduce intake of the chosen virtue. Put differently, persistent self-control across choice and quantity decisions is observed only when those with a dietary goal show successful self-control enactment in the choice stage. We therefore highlight that the operation of self-control can be dynamic within a consumption episode, and thus, choice and post-choice quantity are both informative of self-control.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2024


  • Self-Control
  • Goal accessibility
  • Food decision making
  • dietary restraint
  • food intake
  • Exploratory research


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