The Science of Self-Control

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The experimental group, however, was asked to abstain from smoking before coming to the laboratory in order to induce craving and upon their arrival were told to read a multisensory urge-induction script intended to intensify their nicotine craving. Next they formulated visual or auditory images when prompted with verbal cues such as "a game of tennis" or "a telephone ringing. The study found that the craving experienced by the abstaining smokers was decreased to the control group's level by visual imagery but not by auditory imagery alone.

We manipulate emotional conditions in order to induce certain ways of responding.

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Actors often elicit tears from painful memories if it is necessary for the character they are playing. This idea is similar to the notion if we read a letter, book, listen to music, watch a movie, in order to get us in the "mood" so we can be in the proper state of mind for a certain event or function.

In order to analyze the possible effects of the cognitive transformation of an object on desire, a study was conducted based on a well-known German chocolate product. The study involved 71 undergraduate students, all of whom were familiar with the chocolate product. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the control condition, the consummatory condition, and the nonconsummatory transformation condition. The participants in the control condition were told to read a neutral article about a location in South America that was devoid of any words associated with food consumption.

Those in the consummatory condition were instructed to imagine as clearly as possible how consuming the chocolate would taste and feel. The participants in the nonconsummatory transformation condition were told to imagine as clearly as possible odd settings or uses for the chocolate. Next, all the participants underwent a manipulation task that required them to rate their mood on a five-point scale in response to ten items they viewed. Following the manipulation task, participants completed automatic evaluations that measured their reaction time to six different images of the chocolate, each of which was paired with a positive or a negative stimuli.

The results showed that the participants instructed to imagine the consumption of the chocolate demonstrated higher automatic evaluations toward the chocolate than did the participants told to imagine odd settings or uses for the chocolate, and participants in the control condition fell in-between the two experimental conditions.

Aversive stimulation is used as a means of increasing or decreasing the likelihood of target behavior. An averse stimuli is sometimes referred to as a punisher or simply an aversive. Punishment is the idea that in a given situation, someone does something that is immediately followed by a punisher, then that person is less likely to do the same thing again when she or he next encounters a similar situation.

The Science of Self-Control | Science | AAAS

An example of this can be seen when a teenage stays out past curfew. After staying out past curfew the teenagers parents ground the teenager. Because the teenager has been punished for his or her behavior he or she is less likely to stay out past their curfew again, thus decreasing the likelihood of the target behavior. Certain types of drugs affect self-controls. Stimulants, such as methylphenidate and amphetamine , improve inhibitory control in general and are used to treat ADHD.

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Operant conditioning sometimes referred to as Skinnerian conditioning is the process of strengthening a behavior by reinforcing it or weakening it by punishing it. Similarly, a behavior that is altered by its consequences is known as operant behavior [44] There are multiple components of operant conditioning; these include reinforcement such as positive reinforcers and negative reinforcers.

A positive reinforcer is a stimulus which, when presented immediately following a behavior, causes the behavior to increase in frequency. Negative reinforcers are a stimulus whose removal immediately after a response cause the response to be strengthened or to increase in frequency. Additionally, components of punishment are also incorporated such as positive punishment and negative punishment.

When a student tells a joke to one of his peers and they all laugh at this joke, this student is more likely to continue this behavior of telling jokes because his joke was reinforced by the sound of their laughing. However, if a peer tells the student his joke is "silly" or "stupid", he will be punished by telling the joke and his likelihood to tell another joke is greatly decreased. Another example of operant conditioning can be seen in the form of quitting a habit such as smoking. By using this technique to quit smoking, self-discipline must be displayed as the smoker must stop giving into their addiction.

Self-punishment of responses would include the arranging of punishment contingent upon undesired responses. This might be seen in the behavior of whipping oneself which some monks and religious persons do. This is different from aversive stimulation in that, for example, the alarm clock generates escape from the alarm, while self-punishment presents stimulation after the fact to reduce the probability of future behavior.

Punishment is more like conformity than self-control because with self-control there needs to be an internal drive, not an external source of punishment that makes the person want to do something. There is external locus of control which is similar to determinism and there is internal locus of control which is similar to free will. With a learning system of punishment the person does not make their decision based upon what they want, rather they base it on the external factors. When you use a negative reinforcement you are more likely to influence their internal decisions and allow them to make the choice on their own whereas with a punishment the person will make their decisions based upon the consequences and not exert self-control.

The best way to learn self-control is with free will where people are able to perceive they are making their own choices. Skinner noted that various philosophies and religions exemplified this principle by instructing believers to love their enemies. Functional imaging of the brain has shown that self-control is correlated with an area in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex dlPFC , a part of the frontal lobe.

This area is distinct from those involved in generating intentional actions, attention to intentions, or select between alternatives.

The Science of Self-Control: Can You Increase Your Willpower?

Traditionally, researchers believed the bottom-up approach guided self-control behavior. The more time a person spends thinking about a rewarding stimulus, the more likely he or she will experience a desire for it. Information that is most important gains control of working memory, and can then be processed through a top-down mechanism. Specifically, top-down processing can actually regulate bottom-up attentional mechanisms. To demonstrate this, researchers studied working memory and distraction by presenting participants with neutral or negative pictures and then a math problem or no task.

They found that participants reported less negative moods after solving the math problem compared to the no task group, which was due to an influence on working memory capacity. There are many researchers working on identifying the brain areas involved in the exertion of self-control; many different areas are known to be involved. A mechanistic explanation of self-control is still in its infancy. However, there is strong demand for knowledge about these mechanism because knowledge of these mechanisms would have tremendous clinical application.

Much of the work on how the brain reaches decisions is based on evidence from perceptual learning. Many of the tasks that subjects are tested on are not tasks typically associated with self-control, but are more general decision tasks. Nevertheless, the research on self-control is informed by more general research on decision tasks. Sources for evidence on the neural mechanisms of self-control include fMRI studies on human subject, neural recordings on animals, lesion studies on humans and animals, and clinical behavioral studies on humans with self-control disorders.

There is broad agreement that the cortex is involved in self-control. The details of the final model have yet to be worked out. However, there are some enticing findings that suggest a mechanistic account of self-control could prove to have tremendous explanatory value. What follows is a survey of some of the important recent literature on the brain regions involved in self-control. The prefrontal cortex is located in the most anterior portion of the frontal lobe in the brain. It forms a larger portion of the cortex in humans.

The dendrites in the prefrontal cortex contain up to 16 times as many dendritic spines as neurons in other cortical areas. Due to this, the prefrontal cortex integrates a large amount of information. If an individual has the choice between an immediate reward or a more valuable reward which they can receive later, an individual would most likely try to control the impulse to take that immediate reward. If an individual has a damaged orbitofrontal cortex, this impulse control will most likely not be as strong, and they may be more likely to take the immediate reinforcement.

Additionally, we see lack of impulse control in children because the prefrontal cortex develops slowly. Todd A. Hare et al. The study found that a lack of self-control was strongly correlated with reduced activity in the DLPFC. Alexandra W. Logue is interested in how outcomes change the possibilities of a self-control choice being made.

Logue identifies three possible outcome effects: outcome delays, outcome size, and outcome contingencies. The devaluing of the delayed outcome can cause less self-control. A way to increase self-control in situations of a delayed outcome is to pre-expose an outcome. Pre-exposure reduces the frustrations related to the delay of the outcome. An example of this is signing bonuses. Outcome size deals with the relative, perceived size of possible outcomes.

There tends to be a relationship between the value of the incentive and the desired outcome; the larger the desired outcome, the larger the value. The decision tends to be based on the option with the higher value at the time of the decision. Finally, Logue defines the relationship between responses and outcomes as outcome contingencies. For instance, if a person is able to change his choice after the initial choice is made, the person is far more likely to take the impulsive, rather than self-controlled, choice.

Additionally, it is possible for people to make precommitment action. A precommitment action is an action meant to lead to a self-controlled action at a later period in time. When a person sets an alarm clock, they are making a precommitted response to wake up early in the morning. Hence, that person is more likely to exercise the self-controlled decision to wake up, rather than to fall back in bed for a little more sleep.

Cassandra B. Whyte studied locus of control and academic performance and determined that internals tend to achieve at a higher level.

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Internals may perceive they have options from which to choose, thus facilitating more hopeful decision-making behavior as opposed to dependence on externally determined outcomes that require less commitment, effort, or self-control. Many things affect one's ability to exert self-control, but it seems that self-control requires sufficient glucose levels in the brain.

Exerting self-control depletes glucose. Reduced glucose, and poor glucose tolerance reduced ability to transport glucose to the brain are correlated with lower performance in tests of self-control, particularly in difficult new situations. These strong efforts require higher blood glucose levels. As I get older it gets more and more difficult and my excuses pile up.

This book isn't a diet book. It's about setting yourself up for success with little things you do. There aren't any easy answers and I really appreciate the fact that this guy doesn't coddle Anyone who looks at me knows I lack self-discipline and have failed to achieve my goal of losing weight There aren't any easy answers and I really appreciate the fact that this guy doesn't coddle you with silly catch-phrases or platitudes.

What he does do is give you facts, research, and ideas that should help you set yourself up for success. I highlighted several passages and have come up with a few strategies to help me succeed. I know it won't be easy and I'll have some setbacks, but those are to be expected. The trick is not to let them win. I feel like I learned a lot, so now it's time to put it into practice. Now off I go to move my alarm clock across the room so I have to actually get out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off. My personal Step 1 in setting up my environment to help me succeed in exercising in the mornings.

Nov 27, Neil Johnstone rated it it was amazing. Great book, i could see how i have failed on things that i tried to do and i unknowingly used some of the techniques and the work. Last year i tried to read 25 books but only managed 15 or so where as this year i set the same goal and this is my 24th book this year.

I'm gonna be the first person ever to complete a new years resolution. I recommend this book to anyone that has tried to improve an aspect of their life but lacked the follow through of self discipline. Dec 23, Abdullah rated it really liked it. Nice book with obvious actions but we don 't think about them and that's where the book comes in. Sorry for my English. Jul 08, Nicole Oke rated it really liked it.

The Science of Self-Discipline is such an essential read and provides many great tips and examples. The book is one that I would refer back to if I needed a kick in the butt or reminders to shame me into action. Discipline is never easy, but the book is a useful tool to read to understand better ways to deal with urges, procrastination, and how to get started on something you've been telling yourself you'll do.

The question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I want to be a disciplined person or not The Science of Self-Discipline is such an essential read and provides many great tips and examples. The question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I want to be a disciplined person or not?

If you are disciplined, you'll do the thing you don't feel like doing because that's what is necessary to pursue your goals.

Neuropsychology of Self Discipline POWERFUL! How to Discipline Yourself

You must classify yourself one way or another at each juncture. Reality isn't black and white, one lapse in discipline doesn't make you an undisciplined person, it just makes you human, but when you approach a decision or action as if it is that black or white, it provides strong motivation against failure because you don't want to view yourself as someone without discipline.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to make any positive changes or improvements to their life but have lacked the follow through or found it difficult to push forward. Dec 02, Sophia Darian rated it it was amazing. A most helpful and clear presentation of what's involved in designing a more effective way of functioning and building a productive life. Absolutely Anyone would benefit from the advise and explanations provided!!!

Dec 11, Robert Lei rated it liked it. I very fast and easy read which covers multiple broad topics on the concepts of self discipline. Occasionally conflicting information between two chapters happens the chapter on navy SEALS being motivational to encourage the reader to try harder and push their limits is followed by a chapter on not overdoing it, and being mindful of when things are getting too much which shows this is more of a compilation work.

Readers can pick and choose which methods they want to pursue. I'd rate it higher i I very fast and easy read which covers multiple broad topics on the concepts of self discipline. I'd rate it higher if this book was my first read into self help or discipline, but it's not. I would encourage it for anyone just starting off exploring that field you will find this book a great introduction into a wide array of options and not too lengthy although I bought this book used, and found the previous reader feverently highlighted chapters one through three Then just sort of stopped.

The thing I liked most about this book was all the studies that backed up what the author was saying. He really knows what he's talking about. He doesn't present the studies in a boring way, either. This book was quite interesting. I learned quite a few new things.


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The thing I didn't like about this book was the length. I feel like the author knows SO much about this, and it could have been longer. At the same time though, this is something I love about the book. He doesn't bore you with words th The thing I liked most about this book was all the studies that backed up what the author was saying. He doesn't bore you with words that aren't needed.

I would rate this book 3. I'm going to go with 4 - Stars. May 13, Zahraa El-Kabengi rated it it was amazing Shelves: self-help , , psycology. Absolutely loved this book. Although Ive heard some of the concepts elsewhere, this book gives you explanations, ways and examples of implementing self discipline into your life.

It was really relevant and even pointed out my own challenges and explained how hard people like me have made it on themselves to use self control, i. Leaving sweets in our view when trying to control our sugar intakes. May 30, Matthew C rated it it was amazing. Solid Research and Advice I really like this author and his ability to structure and outline the research on a topic and put in actionable instructions for some very difficult topics.

I believe we all struggle with self discipline to some extent and just standing back and reading a thorough overview and approach to improving self discipline is a great self development and improvement opportunity. Nov 17, William N. Ogilvie rated it really liked it. A Renewed Sense of Purpose A good resource for recharging your motivation and stiffening your resolve when they start to wane.

Once you retire, self-discipline fades rapidly: no schedules to keep, no deadlines to meet, no urgent needs to satisfy. But the daily habits of keeping mind and body fit are more important than ever. Several decades ago, Walter Mischel started investigating the determinants of delayed gratification in children. He found that the degree of self-control independently exerted by preschoolers who were tempted with small rewards but told they could receive larger rewards if they resisted is predictive of grades and social competence in adolescence.

A recent study by colleagues of mine at Duke demonstrates very convincingly the role that self control plays not only in better cognitive and social outcomes in adolescence, but also in many other factors and into adulthood. In this study, the researchers followed 1, children for 30 years, examining the effect of early self-control on health, wealth and public safety.

Controlling for socioeconomic status and IQ, they show that individuals with lower self-control experienced negative outcomes in all three areas, with greater rates of health issues like sexually transmitted infections, substance dependence, financial problems including poor credit and lack of savings, single-parent child-rearing, and even crime. These results show that self-control can have a deep influence on a wide range of activities. And there is some good news: if we can find a way to improve self-control, maybe we could do better. Where does the skill of self —control come from?

So when we consider these individual differences in the ability to exert self-control, the real question is where they originate — are they differences in pure, unadulterated ability i. In other words, are the kids who are better at self control able to control, and actively reduce, how tempted they are by the immediate rewards in their environment, or are they just better at coming up with ways to distract themselves and this way avoid acting on their temptation?

It may very well be the latter. However, we also see that the children most successful at delaying rewards spontaneously created strategies to help them resist temptations. Some children sat on their hands, physically restraining themselves, while others tried to redirect their attention by singing, talking or looking away. Moreover, Mischel found that all children were better at delaying rewards when distracting thoughts were suggested to them.