Christmas excess – no need at all to feel guilty

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It’s Christmas – and we all conveniently forget about stuff like putting on weight or keeping finances under tight control.

But don’t feel guilty.

New research by Sheffield University psychologists suggests that burying our heads in the sand at times like these is completely understandable – and in fact we are motivated to do so.

Dr Thomas Webb is leading a project looking at the effect that monitoring progress can have when striving to achieve a goal.

His research suggests that despite evidence that monitoring can help people to reach their targets, like regularly stepping on the scales when trying to drop a few pounds, there are times when individuals intentionally avoid such 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,” said Dr Webb.

“The project proposes that there is an ‘ostrich problem’ such that people bury their heads in the sand.

“We know there are times when people would rather not know how they’re doing,” he said.

“Avoiding monitoring may allow people to escape from negative feelings associated with an accurate appraisal of progress. For example, people might not want to know how much money they have spent or what their partner thinks of their social skills. We call this behaviour motivated inattention.”