Self-Control

By Chris Fariss

I found the following post at Chris Blattman‘s blog; however, the original post is from yet another blog, The Frontal Cortex.  Is this cross-blogging or blog-crossing?  Anyway, I think the experiments will be of interest to our group.  Enjoy.

For the most part, self-control is seen as an individual trait, a measure of personal discipline. If you lack self-control, then it’s your own fault, a character flaw built into the brain.

However, according to a new study by Michelle vanDellen, a psychologist at the University of Georgia, self-control contains a large social component; the ability to resist temptation is contagious. The paper consists of five clever studies, each of which demonstrates the influence of our peer group on our self-control decisions.

For instance, in one study 71 undergraduates watched a stranger exert self-control by choosing a carrot instead of a cookie, while others watched people eat the cookie instead of the carrot. That’s all that happened: the volunteers had no other interaction with the eaters. Nevertheless, the performance of the subjects was significantly altered on a subsequent test of self-control. People who watched the carrot-eaters had more discipline than those who watched the cookie-eaters.


Be sure to check out the many other interesting posts at Chris Blattman‘s blog.  As for The Frontal Cortex, this was my first visit to the site but it might be worth exploring a bit more.

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