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 September 18, 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 September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. 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