Influence of Cognitive Engagement on Temptation and Decision Making

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Bailey Ryen Hull


The purpose of this study is to determine students’ heightened susceptibility to temptation when cognitively engaged. Cognitively straining tasks require considerable focus, which inhibits the brain from the ability to effectively multi-task (Molfese et al., 2006). This may reduce the capacity for executive control during such engagement. This hypothesis was evaluated by offering participants an unhealthy (chocolate) or healthy (celery) food option during a memorization task (experimental group) or following a memorization task (control group). In the experimental group, students are cognitively engaged at the moment of the choice. This allows for the study to compare decision-making between the experimental and control group. Participants required to make a decision while actively participating in the memorization task chose the chocolate option significantly more often than participants who were offered the food after they had disengaged from the cognitive strain. This study could provide insight into how susceptible to temptation students are while under mental strain. It was hypothesized that as students are participating in a cognitively engaging task similar to studying, they will be more susceptible to choosing an unhealthy sugary snack rather than a healthier option. The data supported the idea that students who are cognitively engaged will be more susceptible to this temptation.


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Hull, B. R. (2018). Influence of Cognitive Engagement on Temptation and Decision Making. IU Journal of Undergraduate Research, 4(1), 94–96.
Social Sciences


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