01:31pm Monday 16 December 2019

Thinking Abstractly May Help to Boost Self-Control

In a new article in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers Kentaro Fujita and Jessica Carnevale of The Ohio State University propose that the way people subjectively understand, or construe, events can influence self-control.

Research from psychological science suggests that categorizing things abstractly into broad categories (called high-level construal) allows people to psychologically distance themselves from the pushes and pulls of the immediate moment. This, in turn, makes us more sensitive to the broad implications of our behavior and leads us to show greater consistency between our values and our behavior.

For example, a dieter choosing based on immediately apparent differences between the choices (low-level construal) might focus on taste and opt for a candy bar over an apple. A dieter choosing on the basis of high-level construal, however, might view the choice in the broader terms of a choice between weight loss and hedonism, and opt for the apple.

The researchers draw together many strands of research to provide evidence for the role of these different kinds of construal in decisions involving self-control. They argue that research investigating the link between construal level and self-control is important and timely as some of the most pressing societal problems – including obesity, addiction, debt – are associated with failures of self-control.


For more information about this study, please contact: Kentaro Fujita at fujita.5@osu.edu.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of “Transcending Temptation Through Abstraction: The Role of Construal Level in Self-Control” and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300

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