Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why We Give In To Temptation

Date:
March 22, 2007
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
We've all had our moments of weakness when trying to control ourselves; eating that donut on your diet, losing your temper with your kids, becoming upset when you're doing your best not to. It isn't like we plan on these lapses in judgment. It's more like they just sort of happen. There is now scientific evidence that explains this phenomenon of everyday life.

We've all had our moments of weakness when trying to control ourselves; eating that donut on your diet, losing your temper with your kids, becoming upset when you're doing your best not to. It isn't like we plan on these lapses in judgment. It's more like they just sort of happen.

There is scientific evidence that explains this phenomenon of everyday life. Self regulation, our strength to inhibit impulses, make decisions, persist at difficult tasks, and control emotions can be spent just like a muscle that has been lifting heavy weights. When we spend our strength on one task (trying to control your emotion around a petulant boss), there is less to spend on others (avoiding the Ben & Jerry's when we get home).

The funny thing about being vulnerable to saying, eating, or doing the wrong thing is that humans are typically unaware that they are in a moment of weakness, unlike the strain and fatigue we feel in our muscles after a workout. Fortunately, new research conducted by University of Kentucky psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom and Lise Solberg Nes suggest that there may be a biological indicator to tell us when we are working hard at resisting temptation and consequently when we are vulnerable to doing things contrary to our intentions.

A measure of cardiac regulation called "heart rate variability" (HRV) appears to be linked to self regulation.

The researchers conducted a two-part study in order to test their hypothesis. In the first, participants were instructed to fast for three hours in order to take part in what they believed was a "physiology of food preference" experiment. Participants' HRV was monitored while they were presented with a tray of cookies, candy and....carrots. Temptation, in this case, was indicated by giving into the tastier but decidedly less healthy snack of cookies and candy.

HRV as it turns out was considerably higher when people were working to resist temptation (eating carrots rather than cookies and chocolate) than when they were not, suggesting that HRV was mirroring the self regulation taking place.

In part two of the experiment, after resisting or giving into temptation, the authors had the participants attempt to complete difficult anagrams, some of which were impossible to solve. The authors measured how long participants persevered at the anagrams and as predicted, those who had exerted high self regulation by resisting sweets were more likely to give up earlier on the task.

Moreover, the people who had higher levels of HRV by nature, regardless of giving into temptation, were likely to endure longer at the anagram task.

HRV was not singled out as an indicator on a lark. Segerstrom and Solberg Nes noted that the brain structures involved in self regulation overlap considerably with the structures that control HRV which suggested that HRV would accurately reflect self regulation.

So, will we be wearing a cardiac monitor in the near future to gauge whether we are vulnerable in our self regulating abilities? It's doubtful, say the authors. However, when considering special populations with more serious consequences of self regulatory failure (say, alcoholics) HRV feedback could be helpful to determine when those critical relapses in regulation will happen.

Reference: Psychological Science "Heart Rate Variability Reflects Self-Regulatory Strength, Effort, and Fatigue."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Why We Give In To Temptation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070321130906.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2007, March 22). Why We Give In To Temptation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070321130906.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Why We Give In To Temptation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070321130906.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins