Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Jennifer C. Veilleux

Committee Member

Denise R. Beike

Second Committee Member

Lindsay S. Ham


Cognitive processes, Emotion, Justification, Self-control, Temptation


People struggle with temptation in their everyday lives. Research often attributes failures in self-regulation to overwhelming and uncontrollable impulses. However, research also supports the idea that cognitive factors (e.g., justification) can license tempting behavior and allow individuals to behave in ways that run counter to their long-term goals. In addition, it is likely that affect plays a role in justification-based self-control failure. The current set of three studies investigated the role of affect in justification-based self-control failure. Study 1 tested the prediction that recall of past successes would result in increased positive affect. Study 2 assessed whether justification results in an increased propensity to engage in temptation following a hypothesized increase in positive affect. In addition, attention to emotion was hypothesized to facilitate self-control (i.e., resulted in the selection of a healthy food item). Study 3 tested an alternative prediction that justification increases both the subjective enjoyment of food and positive emotion experienced during food consumption. Finally, it was hypothesized that individual differences (e.g., emotional reactivity, trait self-control) may moderate the relationship between justification and self-control failure. Across the three studies, results indicated that thinking about past healthy choices did not consistently result in increased positive affect. We also found that participants who thought about past healthy choices were more likely to select a healthy, rather than unhealthy, food item compared to individuals in both a positive affect and control condition. Finally, thinking about past healthy choices did not result in increased positive affect during indulgence, nor did it increase subjective food enjoyment during imaginal consumption. Overall, results suggest recall of past healthy behavior does not consistently increase positive affect, nor does it increase the likelihood one will engage in temptation.