Prior research has examined consumers’ use of self-control to avoid hedonic (myopic) temptations, such as overspending and smoking. In this research we investigate the opposite form of self-control, whereby consumers force themselves to indulge and avoid default forms of spending on utilitarian necessities and/or savings. In particular, consumers who have difficulty choosing items that are perceived as indulgences or luxuries (e.g., a cruise) over necessities (e.g., saving for college education) and cash in everyday decisions may use precommitments to indulgence, especially when the psychological cost of such commitments is less concrete. These propositions were tested in a series of studies involving real and hypothetical choices as well as process measures. The results indicate that a substantial segment of consumers choose hedonic luxury rewards over cash of equal or greater value; consumers typically explain such choices based on the need to precommit to indulgence, to make sure that the award does not end up in the pool of money used for necessities. In addition, consistent with our analysis, the likelihood of precommitting to indulgence is enhanced when (a) the consequences of the decision will be realized farther in the future, (b) the odds of winning the reward are lower, and (c) consumers anticipate how they will use each possible award. We also show that awards representing indulgence are more effective than cash as incentives for participation in a (real) lottery. The theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed.
Kivetz, R., &Simonson, I. (2002). Self-control for the righteous: Toward a theory of precommitment to indulgence. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(2), 199-217.