Judgments of Others' Trait Self-Control

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2019

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Abstract

People value others’ good self-control when they feel their own self-control is inadequate or need help pursuing our goals. However, the process by which people distinguish good vs. poor self-control in others has not been examined. This study examined the behavioral evidence people use to judge others’ self-control. Participants (N=297) described the behaviors of two people they know with high and low self-control. Each behavior was coded for presence of successful/failed initiation of desired behaviors (e.g., going to the gym, missing work), successful/failed inhibition of undesired behaviors (e.g., not losing one’s temper, binge drinking), and behavioral domain. Eating and financial behaviors were the most frequently cited domains for both high and low self-control others, whereas other domains were more common in descriptions of high (exercise) or low (substance use) self-control. Successful initiation and inhibition behaviors were equally prevalent in high self-control descriptions, whereas low self-control descriptions were biased toward failures of inhibition. This pattern of results held regardless of relationship length and type (e.g., spouse, friend). The results suggest people either fail to recognize others’ failures to initiate or consider them less important when judging poor self-control others. The limitations of and future directions for this line of research will be discussed.

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Citation

Komoski, Stephanie (2019). Judgments of Others' Trait Self-Control. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20127.

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