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Hofmann Group | Research

The Hofmann group applies a social-cognitive focus to better understand key issues of everyday self-regulation, morality, social interaction, and economic decision-making. Current main areas of research include theoretical models and mechanisms of self-control, consumer and health decision-making, stereotyping, morality, and behavioral economics. In its methodological approach, the group strives to combine the rigor of experimental research and measurement tools with the ecological validity and richness of behavioral data from everyday life (as measured, for instance, with experience sampling).

Everyday morality

Moral psychology has drawn heavily on lab experiments using well-controlled, but artificial situations. To study morality in everyday life, we have been conducting a large experience sampling study (the Everyday Morality Project; 2014, Science) to investigate how often people experience or engage in moral or immoral acts in everyday life, how everyday morality relates to religion and political ideology, how morality is linked to happiness and sense of purpose, and dynamics among moral events such as self-licensing and moral contagion.

Desire and self-control

Desire and self-control in everyday life

Little is known about how people experience and regulate desires in daily life. In a large-scale experience sampling project (Hofmann, Baumeister, Förster, & Vohs, 2012), adult participants (N = 205) were equipped with personal data assistants and reported on more than seven thousand desire episodes as they occurred in their natural environments over the course of one week. The project grants novel insights into how often various desires (e.g., for food, alcohol, sex, sleep, media etc.) are experienced, which desires are felt most strongly, the degree to which the various desires evoke inner conflict (thus turning into temptations), and how often and how successfully people resist these desires. My collaborators and I also tested numerous predictions about how everyday self-control is affected by situational and social factors such as alcohol consumption, resource depletion, presence of social models as well as personality factors such as trait self-control, BIS/BAS, perfectionism and narcissistic entitlement. Also, we started investigating the connection between self-control and happiness, both in terms of affective and cognitive well-being (Hofmann, Kotabe & Luhmann, 2013; Hofmann, Luhmann, Fischer, Vohs, & Baumeister, 2014).

© Wilhelm Hofmann

New edited book on The Psychology of Desire
(Hofmann & Nordgren, 2015, Guilford Press)

This volume brings together leading experts from multiple psychological subdisciplines. It addresses such key questions as how desires of different kinds emerge, how they influence judgment and decision making, and how problematic desires can be effectively controlled. Current research is reviewed on underlying brain mechanisms and regulatory processes. Cutting-edge measurement tools are described, including practical recommendations for their use. The book also examines pathological forms of desire and the complex relationship between desire and happiness. The concluding section analyzes specific applied domains: eating, sex, aggression, substance use, shopping, and social media.

Integrative model of self-control
(Hofmann & Kotabe, 2015, Perspectives on Psychological Science)

As the science of self-control matures, the organization and integration of its key concepts becomes increasingly important. Together with Hiroki Kotabe (University of Chicago), in this article, we identified seven major components or "nodes" in current theories and research bearing on self-control: desire, higher-order goal, desire-goal conflict, control motivation, control capacity, control effort, and enactment constraints. We formulated the interplay of these components in an integrative model of self-control to unify these diverse and interdisciplinary areas of research, connecting research on reward processing, goal pursuit, conflict monitoring, motivational switching/balancing, executive functioning, effort allocation, and choice architecture, among other things. The proposed theoretical framework is useful for highlighting several new directions for research on self-control and for classifying self-control failures and self-control interventions.