- Start date: 1 February 2019
- End date: 31 August 2020
- Principal investigator: Dr Yi-Chun Ou
People believe that they ought to engage in virtuous behaviours (e.g., regular exercising, healthy dieting, volunteering, green consumption, and managing money carefully). Such behaviours are self- and others-beneficial. Practicing these behaviours, however, is difficult because they are time-consuming and effortful as they require a great deal of self-control (Ein-Gar 2015). To illustrate these difficulties, in relation to exercising and healthy dieting, consider obesity, which is a serious problem in the UK: 26% of adults and 16% of children are obese and the trend is worsening (National Health Service 2018).
Regular exercising is self-beneficial and an effective way of decreasing obesity and improving health and well-being (Public Health England 2017). In 2018, the number of gym members has exceeded ten million in the UK; one in every seven people is a gym member (LeisureDB 2018). However, being a gym member is often not equivalent to being physically active on a regular basis. Typically, the number of people signing up for gym memberships increases after the New Year holidays, but 50% of them become inactive by the next September (Purcell 2018). Consider also volunteering as an example of virtuous behaviours that benefit others. In the UK, volunteering levels have decreased by 15% over a decade (Ainsworth 2017).
Research has studied how the depletion of motivational and self-control resources negatively affects continuous engagement in virtuous behaviours (Fishbach and Labroo 2008). The relevant secondary data corroborates these findings by rarely showing improvements in sticking with or engaging in virtuous behaviours over time.
We thus intend to find novel ways of effectively stimulating and ensuring continuous engagement in virtuous behaviours. We assume that improving subjective well-being (SWB) is at the heart of revitalizing and engaging continuously in such behaviours. SWB facilitates approach tendencies (Zeelenberg and Pieters 2004). That is, individuals who have high SWB perceive the attainment of their goal (i.e., losing weight, improving their physical conditioning) as more likely if they stick with their chosen course of action. As a result, they tend to stick with their current choice, which, in this case, would be exercising in the gym as an example of a virtuous behaviour.
From a marketing and service provision point of view, providing a compelling experience should facilitate engagement in virtuous behaviours because we expect that individuals (e.g., gym goers) extract different types of value from such an experience. The extracted value subsequently improves SWB. Psychological investigations of experiential purchases—such as going to a gym—have consistently found that people derive more SWB from experiential than from material purchases (Carter and Gilovich 2012). SWB includes hedonic (experiencing pleasure) and eudaimonic (reaching meaningful goals) dimensions. Going beyond existing research, we will also explore different experiences (e.g., passively receiving experiences or actively creating experiences) and different types of value (e.g., functional, hedonic, social, and altruistic).