Self-Regulation and Self-Control

What is self-control? Is it just willpower — the ability to resist temptations like open bags of Doritos or a warm bed on a cold morning? Or is it something more? This isn’t just an idle question: although self-controlled people tend to have more satisfying marriages, to succeed more in their careers, and to be healthier, we all suffer from self-control failures, from simple mess-ups like sleeping in to major problems like addiction. In this 8-week lecture course, we’ll explore the uniquely human, but mysterious, cognitive ability of regulating our behavior according to abstract, long-term goals. We’ll draw on philosophers such as William James as well as up-to-date findings in psychology and cognitive science. We’ll compare human self-regulation skills with those of our closest animal relatives, great apes, and we’ll examine the differences between cultures to tackle the important question of how people come to have poor self-control — or how they build up self-regulation skills over time.



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