Misplaced motivation could bring on failuresMarch 15th, 2012 - 12:54 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, March 15 (IANS) The motivation to change bad habits with self-control might be misplaced as you could be setting yourself up for failure, says a new study.
“Popular views of self-control maintain that individuals should ‘exert’ willpower, ‘fight’ temptations, ‘overcome’ desires and ‘control’ impulses when they want to successfully control their own behaviour,” said University of Illinois graduate student Justin Hepler.
“Ironically, in these situations people are often ‘fighting’ to do nothing - for example, they want to not eat a piece of cake,” added Hepler, who led the study with psychology professor Dolores Albarracin, the journal Motivation and Emotion reports.
“Those who try to be active may make wild, risky investments, for example, and persist in behaviours that clearly make them unsuccessful,” Albarracin said, according to an Illinois statement.
Hepler, Albarracin and colleagues at Idaho State University and the University of Southern Mississippi wanted to determine whether successful self-control involves the active, effortful pursuit of one’s goals, or whether one is more likely to succeed by “delay(ing) behaviour…,” the researchers wrote.
In a first experiment, the researchers exposed volunteers to words suggesting action (start, active) or inaction (stop, pause) and then tested their self-control by measuring their willingness to forego an immediate monetary reward in exchange for a larger, later one.
A second experiment also primed participants with action and inaction words and then tested their impulse control on a simple computer game.
In both experiments, volunteers who were motivated to be active were more likely to select immediate rewards and had poorer impulse control than those who had been primed with words suggesting inaction, the researchers found.
“Overall, these experiments demonstrate that attempting to motivate oneself to be active in the face of temptations may actually lead to impulsive behaviors,” Hepler said. “On the other hand, becoming motivated for inaction or calming oneself down may be the best way to avoid impulsive decisions.”
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Tags: albarracin, bad habits, behaviours, computer game, dolores, graduate student, idaho state university, illinois statement, impulse control, impulses, inaction, monetary reward, motivation and emotion, piece of cake, psychology professor, risky investments, self control, simple computer, temptations, university of southern mississippi