In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Self-Control

  • Introduction
  • The Self
  • Origins and Developmental Trajectory of Self-Control
  • Implications

Psychology Self-Control
Ethan Kross, Darwin A. Guevarra
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 April 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0170


One of the defining qualities that distinguish human beings from other species is self-control: the capacity to alter one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to align them with one’s goals. Given the centrality of self-control to the human condition, it should come as no surprise that psychologists have studied this process from a variety of perspectives. This article highlights these different viewpoints to provide the reader with the raw materials needed to build an integrative understanding of this construct. Researchers often use different labels (e.g., willpower, self-discipline, inhibitory control, self-regulation, affect regulation, behavior regulation, desire regulation, effortful control, coping, thought control, etc.) to refer to ostensibly similar processes. Although substantive differences distinguish some of these constructs, they are all centrally relevant to the concept of self-control. Therefore, this outline includes readings that pertain to many of these constructs. The outline begins with a General Overviews section, which lists Popular Science Books and Edited Volumes, Trade Books, and Monographs that provide overviews of the self-control literature. It then describes Conceptual Frameworks that either directly illuminate the self-control concept or review processes that underlie different aspects of self-control. These conceptual frameworks are cast at multiple levels of analysis, highlighting the range of perspectives that are relevant to understanding self-control. Next, the outline provides articles that review the psychology of the Self—a concept that is often overlooked in the self-control literature. The article then transitions to describing readings on several key Self-Control Processes. It provides citations for articles on the Origins and Developmental Trajectory of Self-Control and highlights the short- and long-term Implications of self-control. It concludes by highlighting three Current DirectionsSelf-Control Interventions, the Strength Model of Self-Control, and Wisdom, Emotional Intelligence, and the Importance of Flexibility.

General Overviews

There are two avenues available to students interested in obtaining a general overview of self-control research. First, there are many Popular Science Books for general audiences written by leading researchers. These books often describe influential programs of research on topics within the self-control literature. Second, there are a number of Edited Volumes, Trade Books, and Monographs that examine the self-control construct in depth. These volumes are also written by leading scholars for more-specialized audiences than the popular science books.

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