August 6, 2009

Temptation more powerful than people think

People say they have more restraint than they actually possess -- leading to poor decisions when tempted with greed, lust or drugs, U.S. researchers said.

Study leader Loran Nordgren of the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill., examined how an individual's belief in his or her ability to control impulses -- such as greed, drug craving and sexual arousal -- influence responses to temptation.

People are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation, Nordgren said in a statement. The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, said the study focused on personal behaviors such as smoking and eating, but it is easy to apply the findings to a broader context such as oversight or regulatory guidelines for business and political leaders.