Are people more satisfied with decisions to resist or to indulge temptation? We propose that the effect of restraint versus indulgence on decision satisfaction depends on individual differences in lay rationalism, that is, reliance on reason versus feelings to guide decisions. Across 2 pilot studies and 9 main studies (N = 3,264) with different methodologies and various self-control domains, we found consistent evidence that individuals experience higher satisfaction with restraint the more they rely on reason than on feelings. The proposed effect uniquely concerns individual differences in lay rationalism and is independent from individual differences in trait self-control. We also show that authenticity (feeling true to oneself) is the mechanism underlying this effect and rule out self-typicality (acting in ways typical of oneself) as an alternative account. Additionally, we examined downstream consequences of this effect for compensatory authenticity seeking. These findings advance a more nuanced view of self-control based on identity and suggest that the subjective utility of restraint is contingent upon individual differences in reliance on reason versus feelings in decision making. Our research contributes to the understudied topic of the phenomenology of self-control and provides novel insights into its potential downsides for some individuals. We discuss theoretical implications for research on self-control, lay rationalism and authenticity.
- Decision satisfaction
- Lay rationalism