Physical pain and guilty pleasures

From Social Psychological and Personality Science 

All indulgences in life are bad for us—or at least it often seems that way. We regularly desire things that provide short-term satisfaction, yet may harbor long-term negative consequences. In order to enjoy these ‘‘guilty pleasures’’ however, we often find ways to justify their consumption. Challenging or adverse experiences serve this purpose well, providing a convenient rationale for self indulgence and making us feel more entitled to a little pleasure. This paper considers two studies that support the link between adversity and self-reward. Study 1 demonstrates that pain leads to self-reward but only in contexts that frame the experience of pain as “unjust.” Study 2 shows that after pain people are more likely to self-reward with guilty pleasures (chocolate) in preference to other kinds of rewards (a pen). The studies provide evidence that simply experiencing physical pain facilitates indulgence in guilty pleasures.

Abstract

Across two studies, the authors show that simply experiencing physical pain facilitates indulgence in guilty pleasures. This is because people feel justified in rewarding themselves when they are the victims of unfair treatment and concepts of punishment are embodied within the experience of physical pain. Study 1 demonstrates that pain leads to self-reward but only in contexts that frame the experience of pain as “unjust.” Study 2 shows that after pain people are more likely to self-reward with guilty pleasures (chocolate) in preference to other kinds of rewards (a pen). The authors find that this effect is only evident for people who are especially sensitivity to personal injustice. The findings provide support for the notion that painful experiences may increase entitlement to rewards through implicit activation of justice-related concepts, allowing people to take liberty with pleasures that might otherwise arouse feelings of guilt.

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Article details
Bastian, B., Jetten, J., & Stewart, E. (2012). Physical Pain and Guilty Pleasures Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550612451156

     
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