The Role of Scarcity and Attentional Focus in Goal Conflict

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Consumers constantly face a pull between competing goals in their everyday lives. The present research examines a novel factor proposed to influence relative goal activation during a self-control conflict—scarcity. In Chapter 1, I review relevant literature to build a theoretical case for the proposition that scarcity influences attention to goal-relevant cues in an unrelated self-control conflict. Chapters 2-4 are comprised of the eleven studies that experimentally test the proposed paradigm. In Chapter 2 (comprised of Studies 1, 2A, 2B, and 2C) I demonstrate the effect of time scarcity on food choice, a proxy for the competing goals of weight control and eating enjoyment. I also identify the population subset for whom the effect occurs, those who struggle with weight regulation. The focus of Chapter 3 is a deeper examination into the process through which scarcity influences the prioritization of a given goal under conflict: diverting attention to goal-relevant cues. Studies 3 and 6 assess attention to eating enjoyment cues directly using a concurrent written protocol and a dot probe task, respectively. Studies 4 and 5 provide moderating evidence as to how the effect can be extinguished by diverting attention to cues that instead support the competing goal (weight control). The studies in Chapter 4 (Studies 7-9) broaden the scope of the current paradigm to another domain of scarcity beyond time and another form of goal conflict, impulsive spending. Chapter 5 concludes with a discussion of open questions that stand to be addressed by future research.
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Marketing; Nutrition; Attention; Social psychology; goal conflict; goals; scarcity; self-control; food choice
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Russo, J. Edward
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van Osselaer, Stijn Maurits
Ferguson, Melissa J.
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Ph. D., Management
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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