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The Globe and Mail

Self-restraint can make people angry: study

Saying no to that jumbo Butterfinger post-workout should feel good, right?

Same for the time you walked away from a $40 T-shirt at American Apparel, no?


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People who try to exert self-control get cranky, says a study set to appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Research has shown that exerting self-control makes people more likely to behave aggressively toward others and people on diets are known to be irritable and quick to anger," say the authors, quoted in a release for the paper, humorously titled, "Grapes of Wrath: The Angry Effects of Exerting Self-Control."

The researchers discovered that people who showed self-control were subsequently more attracted to violent movies, livid facial expressions and incensed public policy appeals than other subjects who weren't as self-restrained.

In one experiment, people who chose an apple over a chocolate bar were then more likely to gun for movies with revenge themes.

In another experiment, subjects who exerted financial restraint by picking a gift certificate for groceries instead of a trip to the spa showed keen interest in looking at angry faces.

In a third trial, dieters preferred aggressive policy campaigns over more morose messaging.

"Public policy makers need to be more aware of the potential negative emotions resulting from encouraging the public to exert more self control in daily choices," write the authors, David Gal and Wendy Liu of Northwestern University and the University of California San Diego, respectively.

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What about you? Do you ever feel huffy after a day of dieting? Or crave some Tarantino after putting down for RRSPs?

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Zosia More

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