Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Strength model of self-control
What is the strength model of self-control and how can it be applied?
Overview[edit | edit source]
|Have you ever been tempted to achieve a list of long-term goals but just don’t have the strength or energy to accomplish it? Maybe you forced yourself into a new year’s resolution on weight loss but didn’t have the self-control to let go off the high calorie foods. Let’s say you gave it a go, but then failed which resulted in your energy being depleted and thus didn’t have the energy for other things in your life. Well, the solution to your problems will be meet. Roy Baumeister, an social psychologist, proposed the strength model of self-control. The model describes how individuals can control their behaviour, tendencies and natural desires to be able to achieve their long-term goals and conform to the codes of behaviour and norms. The justified term 'self-control' and 'self-regulation' describes one’s ability and capacity to guide their conscious behaviour in a desired direction and to resist short-term temptations that distract them from their long-term goals. The strength model of self-control has had a great amount of attention over the past decade in given literature. It values that failure to self-control can possibly lead to societal problems which go against the norms or behaviours. This chapter aims to provide strategies into controlling your behaviour, tendencies and natural desires in a result to achieve long-term goals. It gives the importance of an individual’s ability to resist short-term temptations and not to exert large amounts of energy that could result in depletion.|
Self-control and Self-regulatory[edit | edit source]
Self-control is becoming popular in health and exercise psychology literature. Self-control is very important in terms of engaging in health behaviours (e.g. exercise, healthy diet, obesity and alcohol abuse). A recent survey conducted on the behalf of the American Psychology Association stated that 41% of participants long-term goals were health related. On the other hand, 27% represented poor self-control which prevented from meeting their expected goals and positively, 71% proved self-control improved through practice.
A study conducted by Hofmann (2012) showed 200 people who wore beepers consistently for a week and were asked to report whether they needed, felt to resist, how strongly and how successful resistance was demonstrated a total of 7000 desires out of 10,000 responses. This showed that the individuals resisted two out of every five desires and spent the rest of the days controlling their wants and needs.
Psychological Theories[edit | edit source]
Feedback loop-theory[edit | edit source]
Self-control has an impact on multiple processes. Pioneered work by Carver and Scheier (1981) demonstrated feedback-loop theory to self-regulation where people compared their existing status to the standard, made appropriate changes, compared again, and exited the loop when they were satisfied with the change. This theory integrates with positive and negative loops.
|“||For instance, positive loop occurs when an individual drives a car in a raining weather and has to drive in a safe speed or a risky speed and driving fast could be dangerous but chooses to slow down until their comfortable from the previous risky speed. Thus reinforcing a change in the controlled condition.
- (Nelson, T. 1993).
Test-Operate-Test-Exit (TOTE)[edit | edit source]
The trait and state of self-control is better understood with relation to broader theories of self-regulation. Carver & Scheier (1981) and Powers (1973) illustrated the theory of Test-Operate-Test-Exit (TOTE) which the discussion of self-control fits in. This includes the initial test phase of self-determining an individual’s relative to a goal or their desired outcome. For instance, if an individual’s goal is to obtain a happy marriage, then a test phase will be considered to compare one another's feelings relative to the obtained goal. In such case, if there is no difference obtained towards a desired goal and the current state of the individual, then further process does not further upon “operate”. If a discrepancy lies between one’s goal (i.e., cheerful marriage) and one’s state (i.e., hostile feeling towards one’s mate) the operate phase begins. It involves self-acting to obtain a goal. The determination of whether the action was effective about the obtained goal or state is concluded in the next ‘test’ phase. If a gap lies between goal and the current state then the self-returns back to the “operate” phase and when a discrepancy no longer exists, the individual “exits” the feedback loop. Thus, Carver (2004) describes this as a discrepancy-reducing loop as its aim is to eliminate discrepancies between the goal and state.
Some thought processes require minimal energy however, logical reasoning and extrapolation require disciplined mental effort. According to Schmeichel et al., (2003) there has been a decrease in peoples IQ scores under ego depletion, whereas their performance on rote memory and other automatic processes were unaffected.
Strength Model of Self-Control[edit | edit source]
Individuals who conquer high self-control often are unable to resist temptations. The model explains self-regulatory fails by arguing that self-control is a limited resource which resembles like a muscle. The more self-control is exercised, the more it is worn out and depleted. In terms of Freudian literature, this depletion is called ego depletion and makes vast individuals vulnerable to future temptations causing impairment in tasks that require self-control. Researchers Kathleen Vohs & Todd (2000) have found this depleting effect to be robust across a variety of situations such as individuals regulating their emotions, making choices, engaging in problem and logical reasoning/solving.
|An example: non-dieters, chronic dieters and dieters were asked to sit close or away from a candy bowl and were given the option to help themselves or not touch it. Chronic dieters who sat close to the candy bowl and told to help themselves required the exertion of self-control. The results implemented chronic dieters demonstrated less persistence in subsequent cognitive task and ate more candy compared with dieters who sat away from the candy bowl. Non-dieters who sat near the bowl did not impair their subsequent self-control performance. The final results indicated ego-depletion only occurred in individuals who have the motivation to achieve their goal.|
Further conducted in the same study, there was no self-regulatory failure when dieters were told not to eat from the candy bowl. Thus, illustrating willpower depletion does not occur when behaviour is constrained by external factors and is not under volitional control. However, individuals do not have much willpower as the effects ego depletion begin minutes after exerting self-control. From a literature perspective, this can be misleading at times. For instance, when body builders exert their muscles they get tired gradually, but after some exertion they begin to conserve their remaining energy. Fatigue signs can demonstrate early whereas complete exhaustion of the muscles is seen rarely.
A meta-analysis conducted by Hagger (2010) combined different results from across 83 studies and confirmed that self-control or willpower is an exertion resource and if used in large amounts, the mental activity requirement of self-control is impaired. According to Freud and the discussion of self-terms of energy, in the late 1980s and 1990s, self-control tasks draws upon the same energy resource.
|“||For instance, holding your tongue will create a resisting urge to drink, eat, smoke which depletes crucial energy and leaves less energy for the next task. Most theorists emphasised information and ideas but not energy. An important part of the self is the well of energy that it expends when it regulates its responses.
Ego Depletion[edit | edit source]
Effects[edit | edit source]
The effects of ego depletion are caused by conservation effects rather than exhaustion effects. Researcher Muraven (2006) showed that after the results of being depleted, individuals can still perform well if there’s a reason to do so however, they get much more depleted if another task of self-control comes along.
|An example: an exhausted athlete sums up a great exertion for the final lap by allocating their resources specifically once they begin to become depleted.|
- Self-control has some depleting effects that vary as a function in a number of personal factors. For example;
- Individuals who have high autonomous motivation exert self-control or perceive others to support their autonomy are less depleted than others with low autonomous motivation or those pressured by others to self-control.
- Individuals believe that increased positive mood and willpower isn’t a limited resource and may reduce levels of ego depletion.
Muraven et al., (2006) showed people hinder more when expected subsequent demands than when they think they are confronting the final demand.
Trait self-control[edit | edit source]
Individuals who have high levels of trait self-control their ego depletion on different task performances are less than those for individuals with low trait self-control. Finkel & Campbell (2011) determined a positive correlation between accommodation and trait self-control across four studies.
Hence, people who obtain good self-control, respond much better to their partner’s mistakes than compared to people with poor trait self-control. Further, individuals who anticipate self-control tasks show larger ego depletion than those who don’t expect a future task. The case individuals are strategic in their resource allocation and choose to carefully conserve resources for the consequent self-control task. Hence, this conservation hypothesis aligns with Baumeister’s argument that different acts of self-control will result in partial depletion only rather than full complete exhaustion due to individuals only conserving their resources for future situations.
Research suggested by Vohs and Baumesiter (2008) and Brandon Schmeichel (2003) showed moderate depleted individuals utilise small amounts of their remaining resources to be able to maintain their performance levels.
Self-control and exercise[edit | edit source]
Different findings and literature from the strength model of self-control presented implications on exercise and health promotion. Individuals with a difficult job require a great amount of self-regulatory strength and information processing which results in them feeling depleted at the end of their work day. Individuals who might be on a weight loss program have less self-control during the later stages of the day when choosing a healthy meal or being tempted with higher calories (unless they're highly motivated to weight loss).
Lifestyle[edit | edit source]
Another implication identifies since self-control is a limited resource. Individuals should strengthen a change in their single health behaviour to make it habitual so it requires less self-control then opposed to trying different behaviours simultaneously. This result would end in more depletion, in fact the exertion of self-control only towards a single behaviour might weaken self-control effects towards the other behaviour.
|Concluded from the study by Ditka Shmueli (2009) & Judith Prochaska (2009) showed smokers who were told to resist highly tempting food resulted in more smoking compared to smokers who were told to resist food which was not tempting. Another example includes smokers who successfully strengthened their self-control by performing handgrip muscle exercises were more successful at quitting smoking (Muraven et al., 2010).|
Self-control 'A limited resource'?[edit | edit source]
In an experiment conducted by Baumeister (1998) supported different views of self-control being a limited resource. Participants arrived with an empty stomach and were sat down next to freshly baked cookies and sweets and in front of them, was a bowl of radishes. Some participants were told to eat the radishes but not the sweets. There were two control conditions with participants who were told to eat the sweets but not the radishes and others who skipped the food.
The participants were then given some unsolvable puzzles and were timed until they gave up. After attempts of trying over and over despite the failure which takes inner strength, self-discipline to persevere instead of quitting found that participants from the radish condition gave up faster than the others in the control conditions. Resisting the temptation to eat the sweets depleted their willpower and left them with fewer resources to persevere on the next unrelated task.
Watch this video to help understand self-control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k68697pdqHI
Will power being low[edit | edit source]
Behaviour[edit | edit source]
A great amount of researchers have shown many effects of ego depletion on a wide range of behaviours. Some are the standard foci of self-control. For example, research from Vohs & Heatherton (2000) demonstrated dieters consume more fatty food when their willpower is depleted whereas, there is no change in eating with regards to non-dieters. Therefore, depletion alters behaviours when people try to control or restrain it (e.g. dieters try to constrain their eating habits and ego depletion makes them consume more).
Abusive Relationships[edit | edit source]
Similarly, according to DeWall (2007) partial aggression increases with ego depletion amongst people who’ve been provoked or angered and obtain an aggressive impulse that they would normally restrain. For example, field and laboratory studies conducted by Finkel (2009) demonstrated nonviolent couples treating one another in an abusive manner when their self-control resources are depleted. This also showed that strengthening willpower via self-control exercise reduces tendencies to engage in partner violence.
Close Relationships[edit | edit source]
Apart from disruptive violence and abuse, researcher Vohs (2011) states close relationships benefit from self-control and good practices deteriorate when willpower is depleted. Partners that are intimate with one another often shield one another from blame however, under ego depletion they tend to blame one another more (Vohs & Baumeister, 2008).
Depletion can cause individuals to pay more attention to the opposite gender of sex which increases the temptation to stray (Vohs & Baumeister, 2008).
Further, sexual matters are reduced during ego depletion which causes people to unwillingly do more sexual things that they would normally resist (Gailliot & Baumeister, 2007).
Self-regulation has an effect and benefit on close relationships in two simple ways. Firstly, contributing directly to interactions (i.e., allowing people to remain positive and calm in tough circumstances that might become unpleasant). It further contributes indirectly to overall well-being of relationship by avoiding problems (i.e., helping people to avoid extradyadic romance) (Gailliot & Baumeister, 2006; Tangney, Baumeister & Boone, 2004). Researcher Whisman, Dixon and Johnson (2007) has described extra-dyadic relationship to be a damaging behaviour to a relationship. For example, when both individuals in a couple agree to tolerate extra-dyadic sexual activity, it presents a risk factor for breakups in the near future (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983). However, none of these findings actually present a strong case that directly causes harm to relationships, but rather an assumption is made that it is plausible and has a widespread effectwhich is said to create situations that offer comfort and interpersonal security (Ouvrein & Verswijvel, 2019). Parents feel happy when pursuing activities such as interacting online with other parents or their family (Brosch, 2018). High affiliation creates a sense of calmness and joy when you are in close contact with other people and when you are forming/maintaining positive personal relationships (Reeve, 2018).
Affiliation and intimacy can be combined in certain conditions; such as anxiety and fear, establishing interpersonal networks, and maintaining interpersonal networks (Reeve, 2018). When experiencing anxiety and fear, people search for help by exploring how others handle their own anxiety and fear. This is the desire to affiliate emotional support. People with a strong need for spending time with others and creating secure and long-lasting relationships fall under the condition of establishing interpersonal networks. There is also a need for maintaining these interpersonal networks once they have been established (Reeve, 2018).
Self-regulate Effectively[edit | edit source]
Sexual Restraint[edit | edit source]
Koepp, Schildbach, Schmager & Rohner (1993) have showed different behaviours such as alcohol consumption, drugs and overeating, have an inability to effectively self-regulate are correlated to a lack of sexual restraint and mis-conduct behaviour. A lack of self-control is the main problem to a sexual control disorder and has been demonstrated in different laboratory studies (Vohs & Baumesiter, 2004).
|“||For instance, Vohs, Baumesiter & Finkeenauer (2011) study revealed participants with ego depletion gazed for a longer period of time at sexually appealing people in a magazine compared to participants who were not ego-depleted. Although, some might expect that one being in a committed relationship would decrease the time participants spent gazing at sexually attractive people in the pictures but effect of ego depletion was stronger in participants who were in a committed relationship.
- Author details
“This then raises the question of whether people with a weak self-control have a limited ability to suppress consideration of alternative sexual partners in comparison to people with their self-control intact?”[edit | edit source]
The sound of gazing at sexual partners might sound harmless but the consideration of the alternative partner weakens their commitment to the relationship and can result in dissolution (Rusbult, 1980).
Trait self-control and sexual behaviour[edit | edit source]
Gailliot and Baumeister et al., (2006) found trait and self-control assisted the suppression of sexual behaiour across a variety of studies. Low trait self-control was correlated with more sexual thoughts, higher self-reported sexual activity and higher self-reported willingness for infidelity. Ego depletion caused more participants to solve more puzzles using more sexual words which led in an increase to self-reported willingness for infidelity in theoretical circumstances.
Furthermore, ego depletion caused inexperienced partners to have more sexual activity and acts of physical intimacy then previously. In addition, retrospective accounts showed that respondents’ inability to restrain their sexual impulses frequently occurred during times of self-regulatory exertion (as in a sexual indiscretion occurring during a diet). Clearly, state self-control has important implications for relationships that value sexual exclusivity.
Social exclusion for self-control[edit | edit source]
Social exclusion studies the link between self-control and close relationships. It examines the effects of social exclusion or rejection. If a close relationship benefits self-control then one would expect an absence of relationships or exclusion to harm self-control. Baumesiter, DeWall, Ciarocco and Twenge (2005) developed an investigation to confirm that social exclusion would impair self-regulation. Different methods were taken to this approach. In some studies, a sense of social exclusion was created to give bogus feedback on a personality test and telling them their responses indicated that they were the type of person to end up alone in life and over time, their friends would disappear, their marriages and romance would be short, and would end up spending more time alone. In other similar studies, rejection was manipulated by grouping people together then privately ask them to rate the people who they would like to be paired with for a task then telling the rest of the other participants that nobody choose them to be paired with up.
These manipulations resulted in poor self-regulation compared to other various control conditions. The socially excluded people showed poor self-regulation in the sense by eating more junk food, consuming less healthy substances and gave up easily on a frustrating task. They further performed worse on a dichotic listening task which showed inability to concentrate and control’s one’s attention. Hence, social exclusion is factor that leads to poor self-regulation.
But why?[edit | edit source]
|According to the several possible theories which is socially excluded people felt too emotionally distressed to self-regulate and research provided by Rosenthal & Marx (1981); Tice (2001); Wegener & Petty (1994) demonstrated emotional distress damages self-regulation. On the other hand, there is no hard evidence that concludes this. Another possibility is the rejection the participant experienced, was a simple form of bad news which resulted in their self-control failure and not due to social exclusion, rather receiving negative feedback. Further, a control condition where participants were told bad news about their future where they would most likely break their bones resulted in no self-regulation failure. Another possibility is that the rejected participants self-esteem was damaged which caused the impaired self-regulation therefore, decreasing their confidence and ability to perform well. However, the state of self-esteem was monitored in a study which revealed no reliable changes and it was not related to self-regulation measure. Another theory proposed was rejection disables the mental apparatus that is needed for self-control. Several versions of this theory, which include the idea of rejected people use all their self-control energy to try and cope with the emerging threat to their self-esteem and make sure not to have an emotional outburst, could possible explain lack of emotional distress. Maybe people find it upsetting when they get rejected and exert self-control to keep away from breaking down and crying. All of these possibilities could predict that individuals who get rejected are unable to self-regulate. Further to test this possibility, Baumeister et al. (2005) repeated the same experiment but instead offered a cash reward as an incentive if they performed just as good as non-rejected ones. This demonstrated that exclusion doesn’t really disable the capacity for self-regulation. If rejected people have a sufficient (selfish) reason then they can self-regulate. Supposedly, rejected people are normally just unwilling or unable to self-regulate.
While interacting with people, self-control is a valuable asset to use in general. Low self-control leads to aggression and violence in adolescents (Feldman & Weinberger, 1994; Krueger, Caspi, Moffitt, White, & Stouthammer-Loeber, 1996) and adults (Avakame, 1998; Sampson, R. J, 1990; Latham & Perlow, 1996). In comparison, high self-control in adolescents has a better predicament in social functioning (Eisenberg, 1997; Fabes, 1999) and popularity (Maszk, Eisenberg, & Guthrie, 1999). Tangney (2004) suggests a large scale that consists of over several characteristics of self-regulation that are associated with self-control and has an impact on one’s overall ability to interact with one another. The researcher found poor self-control contributed to a vast number of 5 psychopathological symptoms with potential to disrupt hostile anger, interpersonal harmony, somatization, anxiety, depression, paranoid ideation and psychoticism. In much belief, the findings provided an in depth for individuals who have good self-control to report a healthier family cohesion, less family conflicts and a secure attachment style.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Self-concept clarity (Book chapter, 2019)
- Emotion (Wikiversity)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Long-term goal achievement (Book chapter, 2016)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Social movement motivation (Book chapter, 2017)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Self-perception theory and motivation for positive change (Book chapter, 2018)
- Motivation and emotion/Textbook/Motivation/Self-concept (Wikiversity)
References[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
- Erratum to “Motivation, personal beliefs, and limited resources all contribute to self-control" https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103112001722