Do We Really Need a Reason to Indulge?

The authors document consistent discrepancies among consumers' predicted, actual, and remembered feelings related to indulgence episodes and conceptualize the underlying processes. Consistent with previous research, consumers expect more negative and less positive feelings when they indulge without a reason than when they indulge with a reason (Study 1) or when they indulge as a consolation for poor performance than when they indulge as a reward for high effort (Study 2). However, episodic reports pertaining to the last indulgence episode show no influence of having versus not having a reason (Study 1), nor do concurrent reports show a difference between indulging as a consolation and indulging as a reward (Study 2). When asked how they “usually” feel when indulging with versus without a reason (Study 3), consumers' global memories are consistent with their expectations rather than with their actual experiences. These findings have implications for the conditions under which consumers learn from experience. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]