What People Desire, Feel Conflicted About, and Try to Resist in Everyday Life

Wilhelm Hofmann, Kathleen D. Vohs, Roy F. Baumeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

276 Scopus citations


In the present study, we used experience sampling to measure desires and desire regulation in everyday life. Our analysis included data from 205 adults, who furnished a total of 7,827 reports of their desires over the course of a week. Across various desire domains, results revealed substantial differences in desire frequency and strength, the degree of conflict between desires and other goals, and the likelihood of resisting desire and the success of this resistance. Desires for sleep and sex were experienced most intensively, whereas desires for tobacco and alcohol had the lowest average strength, despite the fact that these substances are thought of as addictive. Desires for leisure and sleep conflicted the most with other goals, and desires for media use and work brought about the most self-control failure. In addition, we observed support for a limited-resource model of self-control employing a novel operationalization of cumulative resource depletion: The frequency and recency of engaging in prior self-control negatively predicted people's success at resisting subsequent desires on the same day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-588
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by German Science Foundation (DFG) Grant HO 4175/3-1 to Wilhelm Hofmann, by National Institutes of Health Grant 1RL1AA017541 to Roy F. Baumeister, and by McKnight Presidential and Land O’ Lakes Professor of Excellence in Marketing funds to Kathleen D. Vohs.


  • behavioral assessment
  • desire
  • ego depletion
  • experience sampling
  • motivation
  • self-control


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