Too much self-control can do more harm than good

February 19th, 2009 - 5:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 19 (ANI): Too much self-control can sometimes do more harm than good to an individual, according to a new study.

In the study, lead researchers Evan Apfelbaum and Samuel Sommers from Tufts University showed that effortful self-control might actually cause both unease and guarded behaviour, which could in turn be misinterpreted as racial prejudice.

However, relinquishing some power might paradoxically work in favour for both for individuals and for society.

During the study, the researchers ran a group of white volunteers through a series of computer-based mental exercises that are so challenging that they temporarily deplete the cognitive reserves needed for discipline

Once they had the volunteers in this compromised state of mind, they put them (and others not so depleted) into a social situation with the potential for racial tension - they met with either a white or black interviewer and discussed racial diversity.

They later rated the interaction for comfort, awkwardness, and enjoyment.

The researchers found that those who were mentally depleted - that is, those lacking discipline and self-control were found talking about race with a black interviewer in a much more enjoyable way than did those with their self-control intact.

That’’s presumably because they weren”t working so hard at monitoring and curbing what they said.

Moreover, independent black observers found that the powerless volunteers were much more direct and authentic in conversation.

They saw less inhibited whites as less prejudiced against blacks. In other words, relinquishing power over oneself appears to thwart over-thinking and “liberate” people for more authentic relationships.

The study appears in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. (ANI)

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