Spent Resources - Self-Regulatory Resource

Self-regulatory Resources

Introduction & Literature

Current technologies stimulate around the clock consumerism, making it difficult to resist impulses to buy things right away, and making it so situational forces can largely govern purchasing behaviour. Research has suggested that this has changed the rate and frequency of impulsive buying.

Impulse buying can be defined as a dominant urge to buy that presents itself suddenly, and does not involve thoughtful consideration. This phenomenon is thus not dependent on the product, but on the consumer, and can occur with any individual. Impulse buying has been shown to be associated with pleasure, in accordance with which Hoch and Loewenstein (1991) formulated their view that consumer decisions are formed by an ever-shifting conflict between desire and willpower. Two mechanisms are highlighted in this view: (1) wanting to buy things and (2) being able to control this desire.

This article focuses on the role of self-control with regards to impulsive spending. There has been previous research that indeed suggests that good self-control decreases impulsive buying, but methodological issues make that there are several alternate explanations for these results.

Self-regulation is thought to have three core ingredients:

  • Establishing goals/standards
  • Being aware of the distance between the current status and the goal
  • Moving towards the goal

This research utilizes a limited-resource model in which self-regulatory resources are hypothesized to work by substituting undesirable responses with desirable responses. This model thus defines regulatory resources as a limited resource, a claim which is backed-up by research. The authors hypothesize that understanding of how this resource is depleted can help predict when and why impulse buying occurs. In the studies described here they expect that using these resources in a self-control task will increase subsequent impulse buying.


Experiment 1: A common self-restraint tactic is to lower one’s valuation of the desired product. In accordance to this it can be expected that diminished self-control resources will make a person willing to pay more for desired products. This was tested in the following manner: (1) Participants watched a 3 minute video in which the research group was instructed to ignore visual cues. (2) Participants filled in the state version of the positive and negative affective schedule (PANAS). And (3) the participants were shown pictures of products and asked to list what they were willing to pay for them. Results indicate that the control group was willing to pay more, proving... Interested? Read the instructions below in order to read the full content of this page.

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