Time-Varying Effects of Chronic Hedonic Goals on Impulsive Behavior

November 2006 | ,

Marketers and academics have long been interested in understanding what drives impulsive behavior and have focused on what causes a person to indulge. The three experiments reported in this article examine reasons that underlie urges that strengthen over time and cause people to overindulge from a goal-theoretic view of impulsiveness. The authors demonstrate that impulsivity is characterized by generalized reward sensitivity and by an activation of chronic goals to seek pleasure in various domains (Experiment 1). Furthermore, through a moment-to-moment tracking of desires, the authors demonstrate that such chronic goals, particularly in conjunction with temporarily primed goals, provide the momentum for impulsive people to override their self-control goals, leading to a strengthening of desires over time (Experiment 2). In turn, this causes impulsive people to behave even more impulsively when their activated hedonic goals are not satiated (Experiment 3). The findings suggest that contextual cues have powerful influences on impulsive behavior over time when acting in conjunction with chronic hedonic goals. The results have public policy implications for behaviors such as binge drinking and unrestrained eating.



  • Geeta Menon


Journal of Marketing Research (JMR)