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Darren Dahl (Editor in Chief)Eileen FischerGita JoharVicki Morwitz

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(Im)moral Support: The Social Outcomes of Parallel Self-Control Decisions

Michael L. Lowe, Kelly L. Haws
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/676688 489-505 First published online: 1 August 2014


Although most consumer self-control decisions are made individually, they are rarely made in isolation. Temptations are often simultaneously encountered by multiple members of a group or dyad and thereby susceptible to social influence. However, little is known about these “parallel” self-control decisions or the resulting social consequences. In a series of studies spanning the domains of money, time management, and food consumption, consumers demonstrated a tendency to bond over matched self-control decisions through “coindulgence” or “coabstinence.” The perceived severity of choosing vice over virtue influenced when each of these matched outcomes produced greater affiliation. When indulgence threatened to seriously hinder goal progress, consumers bonded through moral support evidenced by joint abstention. When the consequences were perceived as relatively less severe, consumers found friendship through partnering in crime by both indulging. Throughout, guilt underlies the relationship between self-control behaviors and social outcomes, as peer compliance reduces guilt and thus improves affiliation.

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