University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > CJBS Marketing Group Seminars > What do people desire? 7000 experience sampling reports of everyday desire, conflict, restraint, and behavior

What do people desire? 7000 experience sampling reports of everyday desire, conflict, restraint, and behavior

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We investigated desire and attempts to control desire in everyday life by conducting a large-scale experience sampling study based on a conceptual framework integrating desire strength, conflict, resistance (use of self-control), and behavior enactment. A sample of several hundred adults wore beepers for a week and furnished 7,827 reports of desire episodes. Results suggest that desires are frequent, variable in intensity, and largely unproblematic. Across various desire domains, there were substantial differences in desire frequency and strength, the degree of conflict between the desire and other goals, and the likelihood of resisting desire and the success of this resistance. Desires for sleep and sex were experienced most intensively, whereas desires for tobacco and alcohol had the lowest average strength, despite the fact that these substances are thought of as addictive. Desires for leisure and sleep conflicted the most with other goals, and desires for media use and work brought about the most self-control failure.

Those urges that did conflict with other goals tend to elicit resistance, with uneven success. Desire strength, conflict, resistance, and self-regulatory success were moderated in multiple ways by personality variables as well as by situational and interpersonal factors such as alcohol consumption, the mere presence of others, and the presence of others who were enacting the desire in question. Whereas personality generally had a stronger impact on the dimensions of desire that emerged early in its course (desire strength and conflict), situational factors showed relatively more influence on components later in the process (resistance and behavior enactment). In total, these findings offer a novel and detailed perspective on the nature of everyday desires and associated self-regulatory successes and failures.

This talk is part of the CJBS Marketing Group Seminars series.

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