Berg, Logan Alison (2015-05). Big Thoughts, Small Wants: The Impact of Mental Construal on Impulse Strength. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • The way people mentally represent objects and events influences self-control; high-level construals, made up of abstract, global features, assist self-control, while low-level construals, made up of concrete, proximal features, hinder self-control. Previous research has assumed that high-level construals enhance self-control by increasing the salience of long-term goals (Fujita, Trope, Liberman, & Levin-Sagi, 2006). However, self-control is determined by not only a person's ability to override an impulse, but also the motivational force that compels the impulse (impulse strength). The current investigation examined how mental construal affects visceral and need states (e.g., hunger) that determine impulse strength and undermine self-control. It was predicted that high-level construals would diminish the subjective intensity of hunger states, while low-level construals would intensify these feelings. Overall results showed that construal level did not impact subjective hunger states, and subsequently impulse strength, however exploratory findings revealed a relationship between construal level, eating tendencies, and subjective hunger. For restricted eaters, a high-level construal (versus a low-level construal) led to greater subjective hunger. For normal eaters, a high-level construal attenuated feelings of hunger. These results were attributed to the high-level construal's influence on mood state. The current research provides a more comprehensive account of how mental construal impacts self-control and emphasizes the important role of impulse strength in self-regulation.

publication date

  • May 2015