The paradox of moral self-regulation and health decisions

The compensation effect or “morally tired — immorally rest.” (The paradox of moral self-regulation). A frequent problem of a healthy lifestyle is the unconscious “compensation” of one’s “right” actions with “wrong” ones. By doing something right, it’s as if we get permission to do something wrong. By becoming “good” in one area of life, we can get a “license to do bad things” in another. After all, we want to see ourselves as good, but we don’t want to put in much effort. Therefore, our brain is constantly bargaining, balancing good and bad things. And when we are “good enough, “ we can stop worrying about the consequences of subsequent actions. Let’s look at examples of how this rule works.

1. Selection of healthy products and good deeds. If you ate a healthier lunch than usual, you tend to cheat more often. In the studies, different groups of subjects were offered to buy conventional and organic products. Those who bought “organic” showed a statistically higher probability of lying, stealing, and appropriating themselves than the control group. Although, on average, buyers of organic products are kinder and more attentive.

2. Taking supplements. Studies have shown that people who received a placebo, believing it was a multivitamin, in choosing between healthy food and fast food, more often chose fast food than the control group. Also, the same group took fewer steps than the control group. That is, the danger of supplements is that we unconsciously feel more “healthy”, and create the illusion of taking care of our health so much that we can neglect a healthy lifestyle.

3. Weight loss. Usually, physical activity leads to a decrease in appetite and helps to lose weight. But often, especially with eating disorders, people “earn” or “work off” calories through sports. When food is a reward, often people psychologically “reward” themselves with food for diet or exercise (hedonistic encouragement). During training, the activity compensation mechanism can be activated (once I train, I can not walk or lie on the couch). Other studies show that the presence of “healthy” dishes on the menu increases the calorie content of your order (!).

4. Relationships. As soon as we are emphatically gender-neutral for a while, it reinforces the subsequent discrimination. Studies show that white voters, voting for a black candidate, are more likely to refuse to hire a black person. If you are reminded that you are generous and generous, you will enjoy it… and reduce the amount of the subsequent payment. Interestingly, even presenting yourself as “right” in the future can lead to you starting to behave “wrong” in the present.

Conclusion. The compensation effect can undermine your efforts to change. To counteract it, the focus will help not on feeling “good enough” for today, but on objectively maintaining one’s standards, focusing on one’s values, and short-term benefits. Also, you should never reward yourself with “wrong” behavior for “right” — this is a dead-end path: reward with food for a diet, a sofa for a workout. This is reminiscent of Mexican murderers, who have a tradition of putting candles in every temple on the way to the victim. Avoid “pride”, and public demonstration of your achievements, and do not bargain with yourself. The thought “I’ll walk up now — I won’t want to later” has no practical grounds. And how often do you catch yourself in the compensation trap?

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