Study suggests practicing acts of self-control can make you better at it

saying no
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers from China and the U.S. has conducted a study that offers possible evidence of a way to improve self-control—by consistently engaging in self-control acts. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jianxin Wang, Yulei Rao and Daniel Houser describe experiments they carried out with volunteers meant to test the idea that people could improve their willpower regarding one activity by periodically engaging in another.

Most people have a reasonably clear idea of how good they are at resisting temptations—some are able to have a single beer at a bar before heading home, for example, while others cannot seem to resist having many. In this new effort, the researchers have designed an experiment to find out if practicing might make people better at it.

The experiment consisted of enlisting two types of to serve as measures—those who were tolerant of alcohol and those who were not. Those who were tolerant were considered the norm, while those who were intolerant were the kind of people who find themselves wobbling around after just one drink. Prior research has shown that people who are intolerant often find themselves saying no when offered a drink because of the known repercussions—thus, because of their nature, they have had to practice a form of self-control on a fairly regular basis.

All 477 volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their drinking habits and how they responded to alcohol—each was also tested for sensitivity using a skin patch. Then all of the volunteers were asked to play a dice-rolling game in which participants rolled a die multiple times, but only the first roll counted toward a prize—without witnesses. Each was then asked to report the value of their roll. Unbeknownst to the volunteers, the researchers used a hidden camera that allowed them to see the actual value. In analyzing their results, the researchers found that the alcohol-intolerant participants were less inclined to cheat than their tolerant counterparts. This, the researchers claim, suggests they were better able to demonstrate self-control, which came about due to the practice they had in saying no to alcohol. The researchers thus suggest that people in general might be able to improve their overall by practicing it with another behavior.


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More information: Jianxin Wang et al. An experimental analysis of acquired impulse control among adult humans intolerant to alcohol, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1610902114

Abstract
The ability to control tempting impulses impacts health, education, and general socioeconomic outcomes among people at all ages. Consequently, whether and how impulse control develops in adult populations is a topic of enduring interest. Although past research has shed important light on this question using controlled intervention studies, here we take advantage of a natural experiment in China, where males but not females encounter substantial social pressure to consume alcohol. One-third of our sample, all of whom are Han Chinese, is intolerant to alcohol, whereas the remaining control sample is observationally identical but alcohol tolerant. Consistent with previous literature, we find that intolerant males are significantly more likely to exercise willpower to limit their alcohol consumption than alcohol-tolerant males. In view of the strength model of self-control, we hypothesize that this enables improved impulse control in other contexts as well. To investigate this hypothesis, we compare decisions in laboratory games of self-control between the tolerant and intolerant groups. We find that males intolerant to alcohol and who regularly encounter drinking environments control their selfish impulses significantly better than their tolerant counterparts. On the other hand, we find that female Han Chinese intolerant to alcohol do not use self-control to limit alcohol consumption more than tolerant females, nor do the tolerant and intolerant females exhibit differences in self-control behaviors. Our research indicates that impulse control can be developed in adult populations as a result of self-control behaviors in natural environments, and shows that this skill has generalizable benefits across behavioral domains.

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Citation: Study suggests practicing acts of self-control can make you better at it (2017, January 26) retrieved 17 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-01-self-control.html
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Jan 26, 2017
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Jan 27, 2017
It took two groups in two countries to verify the OBVIOUS!? The fact is, however, that discipline from external sources, parents, those seeming morons in today's world,must enforce discipline, and give examples of self control, which in fact is self discipline, This may be appropriate in this publication in today's world of aged infants that don't recognize the word NO!

Jan 27, 2017
Master yourself first: Our two last Republican presidents never learned this.

Jan 27, 2017
Master yourself first: Our two last Republican presidents never learned this.

LOL.
When are you going to?
The Pathological LIAR, so desperate for attention, you troll this forum making the most absurd comments.

Jan 27, 2017
We can see evidence of that lack of self-control in the posts of those with shallow thoughts.

The emotionally-unstable will always be with us since they pass on their malady to their kids. I find the Trump boys really creepy.

Jan 27, 2017
We can see evidence of that lack of self-control in the posts of those with shallow thoughts.
.

LOL.
I always believed you did not read what you wrote before you post it. Not only that. I imagine you typing with one hand while using the other to pat your back or worse.
Thanks for confirming that.

Jan 27, 2017
An example of self control would be...... not posting political opinion in a science forum.

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