Succumb to Your Desires in 2014: Controlling Them Only Intensifies the Urge

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This year, millions of Americans will pull out their lists of New Year’s resolutions, full of intentions to control their many temptations, from one-night stands to junk food to alcohol to smoking.

And 88 percent of those resolutions will probably end in failure.

We spend as much half of our waking lives feeling desires, and are able to resist about 38 percent of them.

That’s a lot of resisting.

But what are the costs of all that self-control? Roy Baumeister and colleagues suggest that self-control acts like a muscle; it’s a limited resource that can get tired from too much exertion. They argue that after people exert self-control, they enter a state called “ego depletion” in which the will is weakened.

This has wide-ranging consequences: Depleted people are more likely to overeatdisplay more aggressioncheat on their partnersspend more money impulsivelymake irrational and uncompromising decisions, and generally respond in a myriad of unhealthy ways.

What’s the cause of these depletion effects? The long-held assumption is that depletion weakens the capacity for restraint, but leaves feelings and desires unaffected. In other words, our wellspring of desires and urges are separate from self-control and restraint.

New research suggests we need to rethink this assumption.

Across a number of unpublished studies in a wide range of real-life settings, Kathleen Vohsand colleagues found that controlling our impulses simultaneously weakens our restraint and intensifies our urges.

Read more

Scott Barry Kaufman

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Sex

2 Comments on “Succumb to Your Desires in 2014: Controlling Them Only Intensifies the Urge”

  1. January 15, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    Man I’m doing it all wrong!

  2. dirk_genlty
    February 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Recent study? Ive never heard of ego depletion so needed to look it up. The paper was written in 1997. 17 years ago. Updated in 2007, 7 years ago. Just saying.

    Hopefully my ego will not disappear in a puff of logic if I resist the urge to get angry at Professors in Marketing (whatever that is) for making things up.

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