Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control

Date:
April 7, 2009
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Exerting self-control is exhausting. In fact, using self-control in one situation impairs our ability to use self-control in subsequent, even unrelated, situations. What about thinking of other people exerting self-control? A new study in Psychological Science suggests that our own self-control can be worn out simply by mentally simulating another person acting with self-control.

Exerting self-control is exhausting. In fact, using self-control in one situation impairs our ability to use self-control in subsequent, even unrelated, situations. What about thinking of other people exerting self-control?

Earlier research has shown that imagining actions can cause the same reactions as if we were actually performing them (e.g., simulating eating a disgusting food results in a revolting face, even if no food has been eaten) and psychologists Joshua M. Ackerman and John A. Bargh from Yale University, along with Noah J. Goldstein and Jenessa R. Shapiro from the University of California, Los Angeles explored what affect thinking about other people's self-control has on our own thoughts and behavior.

Participants were presented with a story about a hungry waiter who was surrounded by delicious food, but was not allowed to sample any, for fear of being fired. Half of the participants simply read the story and the other half were told to imagine themselves in the waiter's shoes. Next, all of the participants were shown images of mid- to high-priced items (e.g., cars and TVs) and were to indicate how much they would pay for them. In a follow-up experiment, some of the participants read the same story and others read a similar story in which the waiter was not hungry and did not have to use self-control. Just as in the first experiment, some of the participants read the story while others imagined themselves as the waiter. All of these volunteers then participated in a word game and a memory task.

The results, reported in Psychological Science reveal that the participants who imagined themselves in the waiter's position were more willing to spend greater amounts of money on the luxury items - they had exhausted their capacity for self-control and restraint, leading them to spend more money. In the follow-up experiment, the volunteers who read and imagined the story of the waiter who was not hungry performed much better on the word game and memory task. Overall, the group that imagined themselves as the waiter from the original story, who exercised self-control and did not eat any food, performed the worst on the word game and memory tasks.

These findings suggest that our own self-control can be worn out simply by mentally simulating another person acting with self-control. The authors note, for example, that imagining someone else's self-control "could result in small breakdowns of self-control, such as employees speaking out improperly during a meeting, to catastrophic ones, such as police officers responding to an emotionally charged encounter with deadly force."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ackerman et al. You Wear Me Out: The Vicarious Depletion of Self-Control. Psychological Science, 2009; 20 (3): 326 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02290.x

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406192429.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2009, April 7). You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406192429.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406192429.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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