Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Finding pleasure in productive activities the key to boosting self-control

After a long, tiring day many of us simply give in to the urge to grab a favourite unhealthy snack and avoid tackling obligatory tasks. But we don’t have to.

A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that while people have a harder time controlling themselves when tired, it doesn’t mean they’ve exhausted all of their willpower. The key to boosting self-control is finding pleasure in the necessary activities of life.

“When people are fatigued they experience a change in motivational priorities such that they are less willing to work for the things they feel obliged to do and more willing to work for things they like to do,” says Michael Inzlicht, professor in the Department of Psychology at UTSC and affiliate faculty at U of T’s School of Public Policy and Governance.

Inzlicht defines self-control as the mental processes that allow people to override thoughts and emotions in order to adapt their behavior from one moment to the next. The prevailing view in psychology has been that self-control is a limited resource where repeated acts of restraint exhaust supply until individuals are left with little to no willpower at all.

While it’s true that people tend to lose their focus after performing specific tasks over a period of time, Inzlicht says that is the result of a shift in priorities and not an absence of self-control. In fact, there may be ways to avoid hours of being unproductive when one’s energy and focus are low.

The important thing is to convert tasks from “have-to’s” into “want-to’s,” says Inzlicht. When that fails, it’s worth planning for the unavoidable ups and downs in motivation by steering clear of temptations and taking mental breaks in order to refresh.

For individuals with busy personal and professional lives this may be easier said than done, but certainly not impossible, notes Inzlicht.

“If someone wants to eat healthier they should think of the enjoyment they can get from eating delicious nutritious foods. They should not frame their eating goal as something they feel obliged to do because their doctor or spouse told them to do so,” he says. “The key is finding a way to want and like the goal you are chasing, just like the person who loves to jog as a way to relax or take a break.”

The study, which was co-authored by Brandon Schmeichel at Texas A & M University and Neil Macrae at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, is available online and will appear in the upcoming edition of Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Online link:

For more information, contact:

Michael Inzlicht
Tel: 416-820-2395
Don Campbell
Media Relations Officer
University of Toronto Scarborough
Tel: 416-208-2938

Dominic Ali | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>