This research examines whether mental budgets, defined as self-specified allowances for behaviors, can help with self-control. We theorize that mental budgets will lead to greater self-control when the avoidance aspects of the behavior are made salient and when the decision context allows easy monitoring of one’s own behavior. Study 1 finds that mental budgets help reduce consumption of indulgent products when avoidance aspects of the behavior are made salient. Study 2 finds that even when avoidance aspects are made salient, mental budgets are effective only when option information enables monitoring of one’s choices relative to the budget. Study 3 finds that external reference points (a feature of both studies 1 and 2) play a critical role in reducing consumption. Study 4 extends the findings from studies 1 and 3 and finds that mental budgets are effective in enhancing self- control if the person also has a high chronic prevention focus.
KRISHNAMURTHY, P. and PROKOPEC, S. (2010). Resisting That Triple-chocolate Cake: Mental Budgets and Self-control. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(1), pp. 68-79.