Media Alerts / Story Ideas

Week of Jan. 2, 2012

Published on January 3, 2012

“I Don’t” vs. “I Can’t” – Marketing Prof Says Strategy Can Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

The new year offers the promise of a fresh start, and the best way to keep a new year’s resolution may be a simple change in vocabulary, according to a marketing professor from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business. Vanessa Patrick recently co-authored a study forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research that suggests a person’s ability to refuse temptation can depend on the words used — framing a refusal with the words “I don’t” is more empowering and effective than using the words “I can’t,” Patrick says.

In the study, Patrick and co-author Henrik Hagtvedt from Boston College researched 30 working women who wanted to improve their overall lifestyles, dividing them into three groups, each with a different refusal strategy to use each time they faced temptation over a 10-day period. One group was given the “don’t” strategy, another used “can’t,” and the third followed a generic “just say no” strategy. Every day, each participant received a reminder email to use the strategy and to report instances of both success and failure. The results found that the most effective way to face temptation was to use “don’t,” increasing feelings of autonomy, control, and self-awareness among participants and leading to the greatest positive behavioral changes.

For more information on the study or to schedule an interview with Patrick, see Media Contact section to the left.

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