Applied Psychology-Health and Well Being vol:7 issue:1 pages:63-84
Background: Easy access to temptation is often blamed for the rising prevalence of obesity in children. A popular way to counter this is to restrict physical access to temptation at home or school. As restrictions cannot be widely applied and may have adverse long-term effects, we examine if exposure to accessible temptations in situations that endorse self-regulation trains self-regulation. Specifically, we design a method that enhances children’s self-regulatory skills in the long-term. Method: In two experiments, participants were exposed to temptation in the first phase and their self-regulatory skills were measured in the second phase. In the first experiment, we endorsed self-regulation in the presence of accessible temptation for four subsequent days and measured consumption on the fifth day. In study two, we exposed children to temptation in similar circumstances and additionally manipulated temptation strength to show that actually being tempted is crucial for the skill to develop. Next, we measured saliva and preferences. Results: The findings suggest that exposure to temptation in a situation that supports self-regulation leads to better resistance to temptations in later contexts of accessible temptation in girls, but not boys. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that interventions aiming at strengthening children’s’ self-regulatory skills through controlled exposure to temptation might be a productive long-term strategy to reduce consumption of unhealthy food.