Situational Strategies for Self-Control

TitleSituational Strategies for Self-Control
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsDuckworth, Angela L., Tamar S. Gendler, and James J. Gross
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
ISBN Number1745-6924 (Electronic)1745-6916 (Linking)
Accession NumberPMID: 26817725
AbstractExercising self-control is often difficult, whether declining a drink in order to drive home safely, passing on the chocolate cake to stay on a diet, or ignoring text messages to finish reading an important paper. But enacting self-control is not always difficult, particularly when it takes the form of proactively choosing or changing situations in ways that weaken undesirable impulses or potentiate desirable ones. Examples of situational self-control include the partygoer who chooses a seat far from where drinks are being poured, the dieter who asks the waiter not to bring around the dessert cart, and the student who goes to the library without a cell phone. Using the process model of self-control, we argue that the full range of self-control strategies can be organized by considering the timeline of the developing tempting impulse. Because impulses tend to grow stronger over time, situational self-control strategies-which can nip a tempting impulse in the bud-may be especially effective in preventing undesirable action. Ironically, we may underappreciate situational self-control for the same reason it is so effective-namely, that by manipulating our circumstances to advantage, we are often able to minimize the in-the-moment experience of intrapsychic struggle typically associated with exercising self-control.