Previous research has shown that people try to ‘make up’ for their moral failures by engaging in positive behaviours, in an attempt to re-establish their positive self-image. We tested whether similar compensation strategies are at play when people violate normative eating practices. Across three experiments we found that participants who recalled an overeating (vs. neutral) experience showed more helping behaviour, and were more likely to engage in self-punishment, by persisting for longer on a painful task. This suggest that self-regulatory failures in food consumption are viewed as moral transgressions that elicit a variety of compensatory behaviours aimed at restoring a positive moral self-image.
Schei, T., Sheik, S., & Schnall. S. (2019). Atoning past indulgences: Oral consumption and moral compensation. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2103.