Washington, Oct 2: The willpower to regulate our emotions, resist temptation, break bad habits and perform up to our potential is the “greatest human strength”, and is a virtue that sets our species apart, a US researcher says.
After examining willpower in a laboratory setting, Florida State University Professor Roy F. Baumeister understood “how it gives people the strength to persevere, how they lose self-control as their willpower is depleted, how this mental energy is fueled by the glucose in the body’s bloodstream.”
Experiments Baumeister conducted with researchers at Case Western Reserve University – where subjects were offered cookies or radishes and then asked to decipher unsolvable geometric puzzles were corroborated in more than 100 subsequent experiments.
Baumeister’s groundbreaking research into willpower – which dates to the 1990s -shows that self-regulation is a little bit like a muscle: It can sometimes be worn down.
When subjects were given a task that required them to resist something – like a sweet treat or not thinking about a certain kind of animal – they didn’t perform as well on a subsequent assigned task involving willpower, a result of what Baumeister calls “ego depletion.”
Even more interesting was that when the subjects were given a sugar-sweetened drink, self-control was actually improved. Apparently, the sugar provided fuel for the brain to get back to work and restore the person’s willpower.
And when subjects were asked to make moderate lifestyle changes, such as exercising or tracking dietary habits, they eventually displayed greater overall self-control in their lives, which showed that willpower can be beefed up much like an unused muscle.
As for our ability to flex that sometimes flabby self-control muscle, take heart, said Baumeister.
“Our willpower has made us the most adaptable creatures on the planet, and we’re rediscovering how to help one another use it.
“We’re learning, once again, that willpower is the virtue that sets our species apart, and that makes each one of us strong,” he added. (ANI)