A Stitch in Time: Strategic Self-Control in High School and College Students

TitleA Stitch in Time: Strategic Self-Control in High School and College Students
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsDuckworth, Angela L., Rachel E. White, Alyssa J. Matteucci, Annie Shearer, and James J. Gross
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Volume108
Pagination329-341
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-0663
Accession NumberPMID: 27158155
AbstractA growing body of research indicates that self-control is critical to academic success. Surprisingly little is known, however, about the diverse strategies students use to implement self-control or how well these strategies work. To address these issues, the author conducted a naturalistic investigation of self-control strategies (Study 1) and 2 field experiments (Studies 2 and 3). In Study 1, high school students described the strategies they use to manage interpersonal conflicts, get academic work done, eat healthfully, and manage other everyday self-control challenges. The majority of strategies in these self-nominated incidents as well as in 3 hypothetical academic scenarios (e.g., studying instead of texting friends) were reliably classified using the process model of self-control. As predicted by the process model, students rated strategies deployed early in the impulse-generation process (situation selection, situation modification) as being dramatically more effective than strategies deployed later (attentional deployment, cognitive change, response modulation). In Study 2, high school students randomly assigned to implement situation modification were more likely to meet their academic goals during the following week than students assigned either to implement response modulation or no strategy at all. In Study 3, college students randomly assigned to implement situation modification were also more successful in meeting their academic goals, and this effect was partially mediated by decreased feelings of temptation throughout the week. Collectively, these findings suggest that students might benefit from learning to initiate self-control when their impulses are still nascent.
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000062
PMCIDPMCID: PMC4856169