No.33 Restraint Bias & Shopping Sustainably

No.33 Restraint Bias & Shopping Sustainably

Using emotional temptation can persuade shoppers to opt for the sustainable option.

Restraint bias is the tendency for shoppers to overestimate their ability to control impulsive behaviour. An inflated self-control belief may lead to greater exposure to temptation, and increased impulsiveness.

Shoppers believe they can control natural urges more than they can in practice. Furthermore, this belief is strengthened by not feeling the urge at the moment and not remembering how powerful the urge can be.

Urges are enhanced by the availability of stimulants, such as the urge to eat being increased by the availability of food. Shoppers who are exhibiting restraint bias and believe they can withstand urges are more likely to allow temptation to be put in their way. 

The underlying problem is in the different mental state between thinking about being in an urge state and being in the urge state.

Timing is everything

If you want to help shoppers to stop doing something such as making non-sustainable purchasing decisions, work on them when they have the urge to do it, not when they aren’t interested.


To persuade shoppers to buy something more sustainable, you can put temptation in their way, as they will be less able to defend against it than they think they can.

Don’t tempt yourself

If you want to avoid buying an environmentally unfriendly something, recognise the temptations and avoid them in-store and online: Do not put temptation in your way.

Shoppers are often more tempted to buy by emotional advertising than they realise. So, if you’re selling something that’s genuinely desirable and sustainable, you can use good old emotional temptation.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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