License to sin: Self-licensing as a mechanism underlying hedonic consumption


Jessie C. de Witt Huberts, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Hedonic overconsumption is often considered to be caused by impulsive factors. The current paper investigates whether self-licensing, relying on reasons to justify subsequent gratification, can also be included as a significant contributor to hedonic consumption. Two studies were conducted to investigate whether self-licensing can account for an increase in hedonic consumption while ruling out impulsive factors such as resource depletion, negative affect, and visceral state as alternative explanations. A pilot study indicated that perceiving oneself as having invested greater effort and thus having a self-licensing cue did not lead to a decline in self-control capacity compared with not having a self-licensing cue. The main study employed the same procedure and established that having a licensing cue did lead to increased snack intake while controlling for impulsive factors. Together, these studies support the notion that self-licensing is a separate mechanism leading to hedonic gratification independent of impulsive factors. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.