Seemingly counterintuitive new research reveals a sneaky way to shore up healthy decision-making
Contrary to common thinking, making decisions when you’re exhausted doesn’t necessarily lead to a potato chip binge. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that people are more motivated to engage in healthful behavior when they are depleted, tired, or run-down. Self-control throughout the day is hard work, as we make choices about our exercise routines, eating habits, and more—but that hard work could actually make decisions about our bodies easier.
Study authors Monika Lisjak (Erasmus University) and Angela Y. Lee (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) found across five experiments, the simplest of which offered participants a prize after working out. Participants filled out a survey on health and fitness habits either before or after working out at the gym and then chose either sunblock or moisturizer as a thank-you gift. When participants were surveyed after working out, the likelihood of choosing sunblock was much greater than choosing the moisturizer.
“Consumers value products that emphasize safety features more when they are feeling depleted,” concluded the study authors. Their research focused on consumer choices, but there’s no reason not to try applying these learnings to your daily decision making: choosing what to eat for dinner or meal planning for the week immediately following a workout, for example, could lead to better choices.