INSEAD research shows that busy people make healthier choices

Thinking of yourself as a busy person can boost your self-control

Middle East, Asia, Europe
18 September 2018

Busyness is often thought of as a modern day affliction, but it can also help you delay gratification and make decisions that benefit you in the longer-term, according to new research from the global business school INSEAD.

Every day, we make many decisions that involve choosing between our immediate and future well-being. For instance, do we go to the gym after work, or do we just go home to relax in front of the television? Do we save money for retirement, or do we splurge on a trip? Do we eat fruit or cake for dessert? When we perceive ourselves to be busy, it boosts our self-esteem, tipping the balance in favour of the more virtuous choice,” said Amitava Chattopadhyay, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD.

In a new paper, Chattopadhyay and his co-authors, Monica Wadhwa, Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Fox School of Business at Temple University and Jeehye Christine Kim, Assistant Professor of Marketing at HKUST, show that the mere perception of self as a busy person, or what they call a busy mindset, is a “badge of honour” that can be leveraged to promote better self-control. Their paper, titled “When Busy Is Less Indulging: Impact of a Busy Mindset on Self-Control Behaviours”, is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research.

This paper shows there can be a flip side to being busy. While people who feel under significant time pressure tend to get anxious and make hedonic decisions, those who simply think of themselves as busy tend to make virtuous choices as a result of their perceived self-importance.

Busyness as a way to boost self-esteem

Across a series of studies, the researchers activated the busy mindset of participants through various means. Sometimes they exposed them to messaging that subtly suggested that they were busy individuals. In other experiments, they asked participants to write what had been keeping them busy recently.

Participants were then asked to make decisions in different self-control domains related to food, exercise or retirement savings, for example. Participants who had been reminded of their busy lifestyle were consistently more inclined than control participants to make virtuous decisions.

Importantly, the studies proved that a heightened sense of self-importance was the key reason behind the increase in self-control. “When we temporarily dampened the sense of self-importance of participants who otherwise felt busy, the self-control effect vanished,” said Chattopadhyay.

Implications for marketing and policymaking

It is common for marketers to use busyness as a campaign concept, as many consumers can relate to it. However, if the advertised product is an indulgent one – such as fast food – the campaign could backfire. “Busyness appeals should be more effective for products that require people to assert self-control, as would be the case for a gym chain, for example,” said Chattopadhyay.

In addition, these findings could find societal applications in the spheres of health promotion or food waste reduction. Policymakers may want to consider ways to activate a busy mindset as a nudge to increase relevant self-control behaviours in the population.

About INSEAD, The Business School for the World

As one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools, INSEAD brings together people, cultures and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society. Our research, teaching and partnerships reflect this global perspective and cultural diversity.

With locations in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore), the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), and now North America (San Francisco), INSEAD's business education and research spans four regions. Our 165 renowned Faculty members from 41 countries inspire more than 1,300 degree participants annually in our MBA, Global Executive MBA, Specialised Master’s degrees (Executive Master in Finance and Executive Master in Change) and PhD programmes. In addition, more than 11,000 executives participate in INSEAD Executive Education programmes each year.

INSEAD continues to conduct cutting-edge research and innovate across all our programmes. We provide business leaders with the knowledge and awareness to operate anywhere. Our core values drive academic excellence and serve the global community as The Business School for the World.

Contacts for press

Chris Howells
Tel +65 6799 5490
Email: chris.howells@insead.edu

Aileen Huang
Tel +65 6799 5552
Email: aileen.huang@insead.edu

Ilan Goren
Tel: +33 6 78 04 25 77
Email: ilan.goren@insead.edu

Cheryl Ng
Tel +65 6799 5490
Email: cheryl.ng@insead.edu

Linda Furtado
Tel + 971 2 6515309
Email: linda.furtado@insead.edu

Insead Personalised Experience

icon

Relevant

icon

Save & Manage

icon

Connect

It is easy, simply log in:

Via Social

  • icons
  • icons
  • icons

Or

Use your email address