Hedonic consumption in times of stress: Reaping the emotional benefits without the self-regulatory cost

Anna H. Balleyer*, Bob M. Fennis

*Corresponding author for this work

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Hedonic consumption is pleasant but can interfere with the capacity to self-regulate. In stressful moments, when self-regulation is arguably still important, individuals often indulge in hedonic consumption. In two experiments, we investigate whether hedonic consumption negatively affects self-regulation under moderately stressful conditions and whether selecting hedonic consumption under moderately stressful conditions is driven by high or low self-control. In both studies, participants were randomly exposed to a mental arithmetic task that was either completed under time pressure with performance feedback (moderate stress) or without time pressure and without feedback (no stress). Experiment 1 assigned participants to a hedonic (vs. neutral) consumption task and then measured impulse control via a color-word Stroop task. Experiment 2 measured self-control as a second independent variable and recorded hedonic (vs. neutral) consumption. The results show that moderate stress buffered the negative effect that hedonic consumption has on self-regulation under no stress conditions and that high rather than low self-control predicts hedonic over neutral consumption under stress. These findings indicate that hedonic consumption in response to moderate stress may be a strategic choice to reap the pleasure benefit of hedonic consumption while the costs to self-regulation are low.
Original languageEnglish
Article number685552
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 23-May-2022


  • acute stress
  • hedonic consumption behavior
  • self-regulation
  • self-control
  • color-word Stroop task

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