Building Character: Effects of Lay Theories of Self-Control on the Selection of Products for Children

Mukhopadhyay, Anirban; Yeung, Catherine W.M
April 2010
Journal of Marketing Research (JMR);Apr2010, Vol. 47 Issue 2, p240
Academic Journal
This research studies the effect of consumers' lay theories of self-control on their choices of products for young children. The authors find that people who hold the implicit assumption that self-control is a small resource that can be increased over time (“limited-malleable theorists”) are more likely to engage in behaviors that may benefit children's self-control. In contrast, people who believe either that self-control is a large resource (“unlimited theorists”) or that it cannot increase over time (“fixed theorists”) are less likely to engage in such behaviors. Field experiments conducted with parents demonstrate that limited-malleable theorists take their children less frequently to fast-food restaurants, give their children unhealthful snacks less often, and prefer educational to entertaining television programs for them. Similar patterns are observed when nonparent adults make gift choices for children or while babysitting. The authors obtain these effects with lay theories both measured and manipulated and after they control for demographic and psychological characteristics, including own self-control. These results contribute to the literature on self-control, parenting, and consumer socialization.


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