Self-control is not just a puritanical virtue. It is a key psychological trait that breeds success at work and play—and in overcoming life’s hardships
Scientific American Volume 312, Issue 4
By Roy F. Baumeister
The ability to regulate our impulses and desires is indispensable to success in living and working with others. People with good control over their thought processes, emotions and behaviors not only flourish in school and in their jobs but are also healthier, wealthier and more popular. And they have better intimate relationships (as their partners confirm) and are more trusted by others. What is more, they are less likely to go astray by getting arrested, becoming addicted to drugs or experiencing unplanned pregnancies. They even live longer. Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho summed up these benefits in one of his novels: “If you conquer yourself, then you will conquer the world.”
Self-control is another name for changing ourselves—and it is by far the most critical way we have of adapting to our environment. Indeed, the desire to control ourselves and our environment is deeply rooted in the psyche and underlies human engagement in science, politics, business and the arts. Given that most of us lack the kingly power to command others to do our bidding and that we need to enlist the cooperation of others to survive, the ability to restrain aggression, greed and sexual impulses becomes a necessity.
What You Need To Know about Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control
What Causes Someone to Act on Violent Impulses?
Some people are able to control anger or frustration and channel these feelings to nondestructive outlets. Others, …
Jan 12, 2011
Marco Iacoboni, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the school’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory, about why some individuals act on their violent thoughts whereas others do not.
Iacoboni is best known for his work studying mirror neurons, a small circuit of cells in the brain that may be an important element of social cognition.
What turns anger into action?
Mostly cognitive control, or to use a less technical term, self-control.
About a year ago I was in Davos at the World Economic Forum, and we had a dinner-with-talks on intelligence. University of Michigan professor of social psychology Richard Nisbett, the world’s greatest authority on intelligence, plainly said that he’d rather have his son being high in self-control than intelligence.
Self-control is key to a well-functioning life, because our brain makes us easily [susceptible] to all sorts of influences.
Watching a movie showing violent acts predisposes us to act violently. Even just listening to violent rhetoric makes us more inclined to be violent.
Ironically, the same mirror neurons that make us empathic make us also very vulnerable to all sorts influences.
A variety of issues, especially mental health problems that lead to social isolation, lead the subject to a mental state that alters his or her ability to exercise cognitive control in a healthy manner.
What are the signs that a person is disturbed enough to take action?
The signs are quite visible, although difficult to interpret without a context …
How universal can an intelligence test be?
Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation
PNAS vol. 112 no. 49: 15142–15147
Steven W. Colea, et al.