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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 May;108(5):750-66. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000015.

The burden of responsibility: Interpersonal costs of high self-control.

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Department of Management and Organizations, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.
Department of Psychology, University of Georgia.
Department of Psychology, University of Colorado Denver.


The psychological literature on self-control has illustrated the many benefits experienced by people with high self-control, who are more successful both personally and interpersonally. In the current research, we explore the possibility that having high self-control also may have some interpersonal costs, leading individuals to become burdened by others' reliance. In Studies 1 and 2, we examined the effects of actors' self-control on observers' performance expectations and found that observers had higher performance expectations for actors with high (vs. low) self-control. In Study 3, we tested the effect of actors' self-control on work assigned to actors and found that observers assigned greater workloads to actors with high (vs. low) self-control. In Study 4, we examined how actors and observers differed in their assessments of the effort expended by high and low self-control actors and found that observers (but not actors) reported that high self-control actors expended less effort than low self-control actors. Finally, we found that people high (vs. low) in self-control reported greater burden from the reliance of coworkers (Study 5) and romantic partners (Study 6), and this tendency led them to feel less satisfied with their relationships (Study 6). Together, results from these studies provide novel evidence that individuals' self-control affects others' attitudes and behaviors toward them, and suggest that these interpersonal dynamics can have negative consequences for high self-control individuals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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