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To control your self control

April 1st, 2009

Firstly, your self control be affected if you see or just imagining how other people are doing some exhausting.  In work done by Ackerman et al. It is known that imagining or actively perceiving other people’s actions can elicit many of the same neural and embodied responses that would occur if we performed those actions ourselves. In this work was shown that observing someone exerting self control sufficiently engages our empathetic mirroring of that process that it fatigues our own self control!

In a first study, participants who simulated the perspective of a person exercising self-control exhibited less restraint over spending on consumer products than did other participants.

In a second study, participants who took the perspective of a person using self-control exerted less willpower on an unrelated lexical generation task than did participants who took the perspective of a person who did not use self-control.

Conversely, participants who merely read about another person’s self-control exerted more willpower than did those who read about actions not requiring self-control. These findings suggest that the actions of other people may either deplete or boost one’s own self-control, depending on whether one mentally simulates those actions or merely perceives them.

But not all that bad. Second study done by Nidhi Agrawal (Northwestern University) and Echo Wen Wan (University of Hong Kong). It shows effect of focusing on long term goals gives you additional willpower to make right decision then you are tired.

“If we are feeling fresh, it’s easy to focus on our goals and exert self-control. But when we’ve already tested the limits of our self-control, it’s harder to keep going,” the authors explain. “This is when focusing on the big picture helps us to keep our eyes on the goal and push ourselves harder. In contrast, focusing on the immediate situation only emphasizes how we’ve already maximized the extent of our willpower and hinders self-control.”

Third study shows effect of repeated challenges. Authors Siegfried Dewitte, Sabrina Bruyneel (both K.U.Leuven), and Kelly Geyskens (Maastricht University, The Netherlands). In the course of their research, the authors found that in situations when self-control is repeatedly tested, a defense strategy that works for a first temptation can be used to tackle the next.

“It turned out that participants became better at self-regulating their choices if they had been exposed to similar options before,” the authors write. “Together these studies demonstrate that although our resistance to temptation indeed wears out when we receive a series of different temptations, as common wisdom has it, our resistance gets a boost when we have just been exposed to a similar temptation.”

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