Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

Self-control as a psychological science

Edited by Jill Wright,

You've probably never thought of will power as a muscle, but according to psychologists researching the science of self-control, it is a highly appropriate analogy: like muscles, will power can be exhausted by over-use, but exercising it frequently can make it stronger and more resilient.

We came across a fascinating study of the psychology of will power - or what psychologists call "Trait Self Control" - at the American Psychological Association's web site. It's well worth clicking through all the pages to learn how you can develop more self-control.

Our search was sparked by a visit to PsyBlog, where British psychologist Jeremy Dean has been exploring the topic. His latest post looks at 10 recent studies that show what self-control can do for you.

It can, for instance, make you happier. Jeremy links to an abstract of a study by Wilhelm Hoffman and others, that looked at that subject.

But Hofmann, who is assistant professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, has quite a deep exploration of his findings from several studies at that institute's website, and frankly, we don't think anyone should resist looking at the Everyday Temptation Study, and learning about such things as "spoiled pleasure effect" and the workings of the sub-conscious mind.

One's level of self-control - or as some call it "won't power" - is a vital factor in eating behaviour, drinking behaviour, sexual behaviour, consumer choice, addiction, aggression, and prejudice, and if you click on the dates for each study, you'll find some fascinating insights into temptation and the conflicts we experience between impulse and restraint. One of them has the cute title "Impulses Got the Better of Me". Does it ring a bell for you?

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.