From Reflectd: Psychological Insights & Perspectives
“… Overcoming the self’s natural, impulsive nature requires self-control … Without this capacity, we would be slaves of our emotional impulses, temptations, and desires and thus unable to behave socially adequately.” (pp. 128-132).
Self-control is delaying short-term gratification in favour of long-term outcomes. It is the investment of cognitive, emotional and behavioural resources to achieve a desired outcome
Self-control often involves resisting temptations and impulses, and habits often undermine self-control. Humans are relatively successful at exerting self-control to achieve long-term outcomes (Hagger et al., 2009).
However, people are better at exerting self-control when it comes to making decisions that are distant in time compared to near (Fujita, 2008). Eight facts about self-control are presented in this article.
1. Self-control is a limited resource
According to the self-control strength model, exerting self-control at one time or over one set of behaviours may deplete the ability to exhibit subsequent self-control over another set of behaviours. A study by Shmueli & Prochaska (2009) supports this idea.
In this study, smokers who resisted sweets were more likely to smoke a cigarette during a break compared to smokers who resisted raw vegetables. Participants, whose self-control strength was depleted (due to temptation resistance), were more likely to smoke compared to those who had not depleted their self-control strength.
A study by Vohs & Heatherton (2000) also supports the idea of a self-control strength model. The study draws three conclusions:
- Perceived availability and proximity of tempting snacks undermined subsequent self-control among dieters
- Exerting self-control in one domain leads to subsequent reductions in self-control in another domain
- Asking dieters to suppress their emotional reactions to a movie depleted their self-control resources
Another study found that people’s ability to exert self-control and resist temptation decreases gradually throughout the day (Kouchaki & Smith, 2014). This finding also suggests that self-control is a limited resource.
Hagger and colleagues (2009) found that breaks in exerting control (since it is a limited resource) and training in self-control makes people better at exerting self-control.
Feature continues here: Self-Control