Temptation Is a Matter of Memory

Are you an impulsive eater? When a chocolate chip cookie is calling your name do you resist or give in to the temptation? A recent study suggests that recalling whether or not you ate the cookie might impact future decisions.

Our mind plays some interesting tricks on us. We previously reported about the “imagination diet;” people ate less chocolate after simply imagining themselves eating lots of chocolate. This current study suggests another mind trick. Suppose I am normally an impulsive eater; I often eat because of stress, sadness, etc. I’m standing by the dessert table at a party and I have the option to satisfy my sweet tooth with a bowl of mixed fruit or a piece of chocolate cake. I give in to temptation and choose the chocolate cake.

This study suggests the next time I am faced with a similar decision that if I recall having chosen the chocolate cake in the past, then I will be more likely to choose the fruit the second time around. Maybe I think, “Oh, I don’t want to make the same mistake twice!” However, if I chose the fruit and recall resisting temptation, I would be more likely to choose the chocolate cake the second time. Maybe my mind thinks it’s a way of rewarding myself for having resisted the first time.

We each behave differently around food temptations, but we could probably all benefit from increasing our awareness of how we respond to temptation as well as how we respond when thinking about our past actions. Give it a try and find out how you respond.

1 Comment

  • I hate to say this, and I’m not proud of it either, but I’m definitely the exception to the rule here.

    If a restaurant, especially buffet style, has cheese cake…I’m getting the cheese cake everytime, ever if I had it earlier. Chipotle does that to me as well. Even if I had it recently, I have zero issue going back to it.

    I’m also the same guy that downloads on a song on iTunes and listens to it on repeat for a week straight…#embarrassing.

    But it’s definitely a valid and interesting bit of insight, something I can obviously try focusing on and putting into action. For me, when I remember how good something tasted, I just say “forget anything else, I want that!” and go for it. Definitely the wrong attitude!

    Thanks for the awesome write-up, gonna be trying to use this technique effectively moving forward!

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