Behavior is motivated by desire to do or have something, either for pleasure or the relief of discomfort. Conflict is the perception that there’s a reason not to act on the desire. Temptations are desires that conflict with one or more of our goals.  We resist temptations through exercising self-control. Successful resistance means we didn’t act on the temptation.   In brief, the four parts of this model are: desire, conflict, resistance, and behavior.

The above inspired by Hofmann et al (2012). Using beepers, the authors sampled thousands of “desire episodes” of 205 adult subjects, who had also taken personality tests. Here is some of what they found:

  • Subjects were in a state of desire about half the time.
  • They are conflicted about their desires about half the time.
  • Alcohol increases desire strength, sense of conflict, and the likelihood a temptation will be acted on.
  • Self-control (resistance) reduced enactment of desire-related behavior from 70% to 17%.
  • Resisting an "irresistible" desire reduced enactment from 71% to 26%.
  • The personality trait of self-control predicted less intense desire, less conflict, and less resistance to temptations.
  • A sense of “narcissistic entitlement” predicted less conflict about desires.
  • The presence of other people made it less likely one would give in to temptation.
  • However, subjects were more likely to act on temptations if they were in the presence of others doing the same.

A couple take-aways: Self-control works most of the time. The trait of self-control works through anticipatory coping and establishing useful habits and routines, rather than active resistance to temptations.


Wilhelm Hofmann, Roy F. Baumeister, Georg Förster, and Kathleen D. Vohs (2012) Everyday Temptations: An Experience Sampling Study of Desire, Conflict, and Self-Control Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 102, No. 6, 1318–1335.