Self-regulatory strength and consumers’ relinquishment of decision control: when less effortful decisions are more resource depleting

Based on the self-regulatory strength model and prior research on self-esteem threats, we predict and show that delegating decisions to surrogates – such as financial advisors or physicians – depletes consumers’ limited self-regulatory resources more than making the same decisions independently, thus impairing their subsequent ability to exercise self-control. This is the case even though decision delegation actually requires less decision making effort than independent decision making (Study 1). However, the resource depleting effect of decision delegation vanishes when consumers have an opportunity to affirm their belief in free will (Study 2).Moreover, remembering a past decision that one delegated impairs self-control more than remembering a decision that one made independently (Studies 3 and 4). The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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