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Culture & Religion

Guilt Makes Indulgence More Pleasurable, Say New Studies

New studies conducted at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management suggest that feelings of guilt increase the amount of pleasure we receive from indulging our desires. 

What’s the Latest Development?

During the holiday season, many of us are surrounded by food we know we shouldn’t eat, but when we give up on our best intentions, we feel good about it. In fact, people who feel guilty about engaging in certain behavior will experience a more intense level of pleasure if they indulge their desires, according to new research conducted at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. When primed with thoughts of guilt, such as being presented with a chocolate bar after reading a health magazine, study participants who ate the chocolate bar reported the highest levels of satisfaction with their choice. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Previous studies have suggested that the law of diminishing returns applies to our indulgences, such that beating ourselves up over one piece of pie is not a good path toward health. Likewise, authors of the current study suggest that “an ad that produces guilt about smoking could increase the pleasure one feels taking a drag on a cigarette.” As a result, says co-author Kelly Goldsmith, using guilt as a motivator “might actually reduce their likelihood of cessation.”

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