You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

If Your Partner Can't Resist Extra Fries, That's Bad News for Your Waistline, Too

The cool new research on how lack of self-control is contagious

Knocked Up/Apatow Productions/Universal Studios

If you get involved with a slacker, prepare to see your own productivity drop off. If you're dating a dessert-lover, watch your waistline. In a new paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Cait Poynor Lamberton, a professor of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, and Hristina Dzhogleva, a doctoral candidate, studied the effect of each partner’s self-control on joint decision-making. Lamberton and Dzhogleva recruited 74 people and classified them as having either “low” or “high” self-control based on their responses to statements like, “I have a hard time breaking bad habits” and “I get distracted easily.” They then arranged the participants into pairs and asked them to make a joint decision: either choosing items from a lunch menu or deciding at what point to give up on a challenging anagram. (The anagram was actually unsolvable.) Unsurprisingly, if both members of the pair had high self-control, they selected healthier foods and persisted longer on the puzzle, but if one member of the pair had low self-control, the two fared almost as poorly as when both members had low self-control. Or, as Dzhogleva and Lamberton say, the high self-control partner “assents to the lower self-control partner’s more indulgent preferences.