Click here to join my mailing list

What Is Restraint Bias In Behavioral Economics?

What is Restraint Bias?

Restraint bias is a cognitive bias that occurs when individuals overestimate their ability to control their impulses or resist temptation. This overconfidence can lead to an increased likelihood of engaging in the very behavior they believe they can control, as they may underestimate the strength of the temptation or the difficulty of maintaining self-control. Restraint bias can be influenced by various factors, such as personality traits, past experiences, and the presence of social or environmental cues. This bias often has significant implications in areas where self-control is critical, such as weight management, substance abuse, and financial decision-making.

Examples of Restraint Bias

  • Dieting and Weight Loss

    An individual who overestimates their self-control may decide to keep unhealthy snacks in their home, believing that they can resist the temptation to indulge. However, due to restraint bias, they may be more likely to give in to temptation and consume these snacks, ultimately hindering their weight loss goals.

  • Substance Use

    A person recovering from alcohol addiction might believe they can attend social events where alcohol is served without succumbing to the urge to drink. Restraint bias can lead them to underestimate the strength of their addiction and the difficulty of resisting temptation, potentially resulting in relapse.

  • Financial Decision-Making

    An individual may overestimate their ability to control their spending habits, which can lead to overspending and poor financial decisions. For example, they may sign up for a credit card with a high spending limit, assuming they can manage their spending responsibly, only to find themselves accruing significant debt.

  • Procrastination

    A student might believe they have the self-control to complete a large assignment at the last minute and choose to procrastinate. Restraint bias can lead them to underestimate the amount of time and effort required, resulting in lower-quality work or even failure to complete the assignment on time.

Related Behavioral Economics Terms