Principal Investigators: Professor Tanuka Ghoshal and Professor Rishtee K. Batra
Abstract: We propose that consumption of high intensity sensory stimuli can be used as a means of self-worth restoration after individuals experience psychological threat. Across four studies, we demonstrate that not only do individuals facing self-threat prefer high intensity sensory consumption (HISC) but also that this consumption restores their self-worth by means of arousal regulation. We show that consumption of high intensity sensory stimuli after experiencing threat elevates individuals’ arousal levels, which, in turn, minimizes elaboration on negative thoughts related to the threat and protects one’s self-worth. We find that this arousal regulation mechanism serves to protect self-worth regardless of the valence of the sensory consumption. We show that this pattern of results holds true in both the visual domain (as evidenced by a preference for more intense and saturated colors) as well as the auditory domain (as evidenced by a preference for louder audio levels). To further demonstrate the role of arousal regulation, we also show that when arousal levels are already sufficiently high, there is no further propensity towards high intensity sensory consumption. Thus, we propose high intensity sensory consumption to be a novel avenue for self-worth restoration.