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J Pers. 2018 Jun;86(3):380-396. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12322. Epub 2017 Jun 21.

Too much of a good thing? Exploring the inverted-U relationship between self-control and happiness.

Author information

1
Purdue University.
2
University of Pennsylvania.
3
University of Notre Dame.
4
George Mason University.
5
University of Cologne.
6
Florida State University.
7
University of Minnesota.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Can having too much self-control make people unhappy? Researchers have increasingly questioned the unilateral goodness of self-control and proposed that it is beneficial only up to a certain point, after which it becomes detrimental. The little empirical research on the issue shows mixed results. Hence, we tested whether a curvilinear relationship between self-control and subjective well-being exists.

METHOD:

We used multiple metrics (questionnaires, behavioral ratings), sources (self-report, other-report), and methods (cross-sectional measurement, dayreconstruction method, experience sampling method) across six studies (Ntotal  = 5,318).

RESULTS:

We found that self-control positively predicted subjective well-being (cognitive and affective), but there was little evidence for an inverted U-shaped curve. The results held after statistically controlling for demographics and other psychological confounds.

CONCLUSION:

Our main finding is that self-control enhances subjective well-being with little to no apparent downside of too much self-control.

KEYWORDS:

curvilinear; happiness; self-control; self-regulation; well-being

PMID:
28480971
PMCID:
PMC5677575
[Available on 2019-06-01]
DOI:
10.1111/jopy.12322

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