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People feel relieved when friends decide on 'guilty pleasures'

Hong Kong, Oct 15 (IANS)- Do you feel guilt-free if your friend orders that mouth-watering chocolate mousse for you that you were craving for some time? You are not alone.

Most people are happy when someone else decides for them to indulge in dessert or other "guilty pleasures", found a study led by an Indian-origin researcher.

Since the decision has already been made for you, you gladly join in without feeling regret.

"Most of us do not like being forced to do things. However, when it comes to purchasing and consuming products normally associated with feelings of guilt, reducing someone's sense of free choice could ultimately boost their overall well being," wrote Jaideep Sengupta and Fangyuan Chen from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

In one study, a group of consumers were asked to read a book that was either entertaining or educational.

These consumers were either able to choose the book themselves or simply given one of the two books.

Consumers who read the educational book experienced equal levels of guilt, vitality, and creativity regardless of whether they had chosen or were given the book.

However, consumers who were given the entertaining book experienced significantly less guilt and much higher vitality and creativity than those who had freely chosen the entertaining book.

"Businesses that sell indulgent products can help consumers enjoy their guilty pleasures. Consumers will feel less guilt and enjoy themselves more if they do not feel responsible for an indulgence such as an unhealthy but delicious dessert," Sengupta added.

In an effort to avoid punishment, children will say someone else "made them" break the rules.

"As it turns out, this evasion of responsibility also works surprisingly well for adults and may carry substantial benefits for consumers," the authors concluded.