Consumption of self-control

People who try to change themselves by quitting smoking, quitting alcohol, or dieting will find that achieving such goals requires self-control and not giving in to immediate enjoyment, which is really difficult. This shows that our ability to control ourselves is limited. From a scientific point of view, if this judgment is regarded as a scientific hypothesis, how can we further test this hypothesis? In 2000, psychologists Fuchs and Heatherton studied this.

The two scholars believe that the ability of self-control is a resource. They deduced from this: if we exercise self-control while completing a certain task and consume resources, since resources are limited, then it is more difficult for us to control ourselves in the next task. Taking dieters as an object, the two scholars empirically tested this inference. They let the first group of participants eat ice cream, and let the second group of participants first resist the temptation of a plate of candy in front of them, and then eat ice cream. The experimental results show that the second group of subjects will eat more ice cream than the first group of subjects.

The results of this experiment not only verified the inferences of the two scholars, but also showed that: due to the need to consume limited self-control capabilities, it is not easy to achieve the goal of dieting, and it will even backfire and eat more. According to this study, we can also reasonably explain some phenomena of daily life. For example, parents with children in school at home should be familiar with the scenario: The first thing a child does after returning home from school is often looking for snacks everywhere. Why is it difficult for children to resist the temptation of snacks at this time? This is because active children need to control themselves well in school, so that their limited self-control ability is consumed in large quantities. Another example is that after we have completed a task that requires effort (such as taking an important exam), we often indulge ourselves and do things that we would not normally do (such as engaging in some recreational activities, drinking too much alcohol, etc.) . This also reminds me of my childhood experience-my father had to spend a lot of energy to deal with the heavy case work every day at work. As a result, after returning home from work, he always couldn’t control his temper and scolded his family for small things. Later, he changed to a lighter job, and his temper became better.

Interestingly, according to this study, we can also explain why a person with a firm attitude changes his attitude in the face of repeated nagging. The reason is that resisting being persuaded by others will consume one’s self-control ability, and the repeated nagging of others will eventually make a person’s limited self-control ability be consumed in large quantities. In fact, there is no need to repeat nagging, as long as you wait for him to complete a task that requires self-control, and then you convince him, he is more likely to be persuaded. In 2007, psychologist Wheeler and others conducted an experimental study on this.

In the experiment, the first group of subjects need to complete a simple task, and the second group of subjects need to complete a difficult task, and the purpose of completing the difficult task is to consume the self-control ability of the subjects. Next, the researchers persuaded the two groups of subjects to support the graduation exam for weak or strong reasons-the subjects originally strongly opposed the graduation exam. It was found that for the first group of subjects, the weaker reason was not persuasive; for the second group of subjects, both the weaker and the stronger reasons had the same persuasion.

The physiological manifestation of self-control ability consumption is that we will feel fatigue and blood sugar levels will be reduced. In other words, achieving self-control requires energy support. So this also means that we only have energy to diet when we are full-this seems to be a paradox. In this way, dieting may be much more difficult than quitting smoking and drinking.