Does trait self-control predict weaker desire for unhealthy stimuli? A lab-based study of unhealthy snack intake

Ashleigh Haynes, Eva Kemps, Robyn Moffitt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Traditionally, self-control has been conceptualized as the effortful overcoming of desires in order to enact goal-consistent behavior. Several researchers have suggested that instead, self-control is effortless, as individuals with high self-control experience less intense desire that conflicts with valued goals. The current study tested whether the relationship between trait self-control and snack intake was mediated by desire strength, or whether those with higher trait self-control were better able to overcome desire to indulge in unhealthy food, controlling for aspects of the food environment and goal motivation. A sample of women with the goal of eating healthily for weight management (N= 134) completed a lab-based assessment of snack food consumption and self-report measures of desire strength and trait self-control (generic self-control, and both inhibitory and initiatory subcomponents). As expected, desire strength mediated the relationship between generic self-control and intake, such that higher self-control was related to lower snack intake indirectly via lower desire strength. The relationship between desire and intake was consistent across self-control levels. The same pattern of results emerged for both inhibitory and initiatory self-control. These findings support the contemporary conceptualization of self-control as being effortless due to the reduced strength of unhealthy desires.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)69-74
    Number of pages6
    JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


    • Desire
    • Food intake
    • Goal-directed behavior
    • Inhibitory self-control
    • Initiatory self-control
    • Self-control
    • Weight-management goal


    Dive into the research topics of 'Does trait self-control predict weaker desire for unhealthy stimuli? A lab-based study of unhealthy snack intake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this