Cat watching fish in bowlTemptation is a strong desire or drive to do something. It typically has negative connotations, and tempting objects and behaviors are often presented as gratifying in the short-term but harmful in the long-term. For example, an ex-smoker might feel tempted to smoke.

What is Temptation?
Temptation can be overpowering, and often co-occurs with cravings. Many people recovering from addiction describe feelings of temptation to engage in drug or alcohol abuse, but temptation can also occur in more mundane settings. A person might feel tempted to eat chocolate while on a diet, to avoid doing work and watch television instead, or to buy an expensive piece of clothing they may or may not be able to afford.

Temptation and Religion

The concept of temptation has a long history in religious traditions. Many religions describe temptation as a lure toward sinful or risky behavior. In many Christian traditions, temptation is attributed to the devil, who tempts people to do sinful things and abandon God. Most Christian religions believe, for example, that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert for 40 days. Some other religions have similar figures who tempt people to engage in destructive or immoral behavior.

Temptation and Mental Health
Psychotherapy often plays a role in helping people overcome temptation to engage in destructive behaviors. Therapy can help people reframe damaging thought patterns and/or examine the role emotion and attachment issues play in temptation to engage in problem behaviors. People may seek help for the temptation of addiction, as well as temptation to procrastinate, to lose their tempers, to ignore their children, to prioritize short-term gratification over long-term achievement and happiness, or other types of temptation.


  1. Colman, A. M. (2001). A dictionary of psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Temptation. (n.d.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14504a.htm
  3. The psychology of temptation. (2011, January 5). Cognitive Science Blog. Retrieved from http://cogsciblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/the-psychology-of-temptation/

Last Updated: 08-28-2015

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