Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Psychol Gen. 2016 Aug;145(8):1075-91. doi: 10.1037/xge0000185. Epub 2016 Jun 30.

Does self-control improve with practice? Evidence from a six-week training program.

Author information

School of Psychology, University of Sussex.
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield.


Can self-control be improved through practice? Several studies have found that repeated practice of tasks involving self-control improves performance on other tasks relevant to self-control. However, in many of these studies, improvements after training could be attributable to methodological factors (e.g., passive control conditions). Moreover, the extent to which the effects of training transfer to real-life settings is not yet clear. In the present research, participants (N = 174) completed a 6-week training program of either cognitive or behavioral self-control tasks. We then tested the effects of practice on a range of measures of self-control, including lab-based and real-world tasks. Training was compared with both active and no-contact control conditions. Despite high levels of adherence to the training tasks, there was no effect of training on any measure of self-control. Trained participants did not, for example, show reduced ego depletion effects, become better at overcoming their habits, or report exerting more self-control in everyday life. Moderation analyses found no evidence that training was effective only among particular groups of participants. Bayesian analyses suggested that the data were more consistent with a null effect of training on self-control than with previous estimates of the effect of practice. The implication is that training self-control through repeated practice does not result in generalized improvements in self-control. (PsycINFO Database Record.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association Icon for White Rose Research Online
Loading ...
Support Center