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Self-Restraint Leads Us to Prefer Aggression

Research shows that when we practice self-restraint, we also tend to prefer aggressive messaging and movies. Christie Nicholson reports

How do you feel when you deny yourself something you want? Like skipping that Snickers and reaching for the carrot. Maybe there's a sense of superiority for conquering the craving?

Not so much according to research from the Journal of Consumer Behavior.

Past studies have shown that exerting self-control may increase irritability and anger. But the new research found that the increased aggression brought on by self-restraint has a much broader effect.

The researchers studied different types of self-control and the subjects' subsequent behavior. For instance, participants who carefully controlled their spending of a gift certificate were more interested in looking at angry faces than fearful ones.

Dieters preferred public service ads that were framed in threats, such as "if funds are not increased for police training, more criminals will escape prison."

Subjects who picked an apple over chocolate were more irritated by ads that used words like "you ought to" or "need to,” which sound controlling. They were also more likely to choose to watch a movie with a theme of hostility over other options.

It's a given that self-denial can be frustrating. But who knew it could make me prefer to watch Fight Club again.

—Christie Nicholson reports

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