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Festive season overspend? You could have the 'ostrich problem'

Dec 22nd 2013 at 8:09 PM

'Tis the season to be jolly," which inevitably means many of us will overeat and overspend. But new research suggests these actions are natural at this time of year, as we adopt the "ostrich problem." We intentionally fail to keep track of our eating and spending, and bury our heads in the sand.,501013

Psychologists from the University of Sheffield in the UK, led by Dr. Thomas Webb of the Department of Psychology, are in the midst of a project analyzing how monitoring progress can affect the ability to achieve a goal.,2275

Previous research, according to the investigators, shows that monitoring progress, such as weighing yourself weekly to track weight loss, can encourage a person to reach their goals.
Male in a business suit with his head buried in the sand
Do you have the 'ostrich problem'? Psychologists say many people tend to overspend and overeat at Christmas because they intentionally fail to keep track of progress and bury their heads in the sand - like ostriches fictitiously do.

But this latest study, published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass, suggests that at times, people deliberately avoid monitoring progress because they do not want to know this information.

"There will be plenty of us over the Christmas period who will not check our bank balance or look at the calories on the back of the box of mince pies, despite us wanting to be in control of our money or lose weight," Dr. Webb explains.

"The project proposes that there is an 'ostrich problem' such that people bury their heads in the sand."
We are 'motivated' to ignore information

Dr. Webb says there may be practical reasons that explain why people fail to monitor their progress.

He notes that some individuals could find the information hard to understand, such as complicated energy bills or confusing nutrition labels.

But he says their findings suggest that people can also be motivated to avoid monitoring information.

He explains:

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