Try to Control Yourself: Regulating the Self under Conditions of Limited Attention

Andrew Ward explains why individuals often fail at self-regulation and how they can succeed.

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by Associate Professor of Psychology Andrew Ward

"From binge eating to excessive anger, many sources of adverse physical and mental health share a common theme: the inability of individuals to control their own behavior," Ward says. "The goal of the research described in this talk is to explain why individuals often fail at self-regulation and how they can succeed. According to the presented analysis, regulating the self typically demands a significant expenditure of mental resources. When those resources are limited in some fashion, the result is a state of affairs we term "attentional myopia," in which individuals can focus on only the most immediate bodily and environmental cues, to the neglect of more distal stimuli. The work suggests important implications for domains of self-control that include dieting, smoking cessation, and the regulation of anger-driven aggression."