Does self-control improve with practice? Evidence from a 6-week training program

Miles, Eleanor, Sheeran, Paschal, Baird, Harriet, Macdonald, Ian, Webb, Thomas L, Harris, Peter R and Unset (2016) Does self-control improve with practice? Evidence from a 6-week training program. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145 (8). pp. 1075-1091. ISSN 0096-3445

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Abstract

Can self-control be improved through practice? Several studies have found that repeated practice of tasks involving self-control improves performance on other tasks relevant to self-control. However, in many of these studies, improvements after training could be attributable to methodological factors (e.g., passive control conditions). Moreover, the extent to which the effects of training transfer to real-life settings is not yet clear. In the present research, participants (N = 174) completed a 6-week training program of either cognitive or behavioral self-control tasks. We then tested the effects of practice on a range of measures of self-control, including lab-based and real-world tasks. Training was compared to both active and no-contact control conditions. Despite high levels of adherence to the training tasks, there was no effect of training on any measure of self-control. Trained participants did not, for example, show reduced ego depletion effects, become better at overcoming their habits, or report exerting more self-control in everyday life. Moderation analyses found no evidence that training was effective only among particular groups of participants. Bayesian analyses suggested that the data was more consistent with a null effect of training on self-control than with previous estimates of the effect of practice. The implication is that training self-control through repeated practice does not result in generalized improvements in self-control.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Depositing User: Eleanor Miles
Date Deposited: 16 May 2016 09:04
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 09:04
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/61000

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