Self-control and self-referencing
Shirk, Steven Donald
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Previous research has demonstrated that when individuals self-control they show performance decrements on subsequent self-control tasks (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, & Muraven, 1998). In our previous experiments, we have demonstrated that this self-control failure can be mitigated by reinstating the self via self-referencing (Shirk, 2009). Our previous manipulations, although successful, did not clearly indicate what component was responsible for preventing the self-control failure. Therefore, in two experiments I examine potential components of the self-referencing manipulation employed in our previous experiments. In my first experiment, I investigate whether making certain types of evaluations (i.e. objective or subjective) would prevent self-control failure. In my second experiment, I examine whether different forms of self-referencing (i.e. autobiographical, descriptive, and evaluative) differ in their effectiveness in preventing self-control failure. The results of Experiment 1 suggest that making either an objective or subjective evaluation after an initial act of self-control can prevent performance decrements on a subsequent self-control task. Experiment 2 provides more definitive evidence suggesting referencing immediate, self-descriptive information is the only effective form of self-referencing in preventing performance decrements on a self-control task after an initial act of self-control. I then discuss how referencing idiosyncratic information may mitigate self-control failure.