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      Why are people with high self-control happier? The effect of trait self-control on happiness as mediated by regulatory focus

      happiness, prevention, promotion, regulatory focus, trait self-control

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          Abstract

          Background: While self-control has often been related to positive outcomes in life such as higher academic achievements and better health, recent insights reveal that people with high trait self-control (TSC) may even experience greater life satisfaction or happiness. Objective: The current study further scrutinizes this potential association between TSC and happiness, and examines how regulatory focus, defined as the way people frame and direct their goal pursuit strategies, plays a role in this relationship. Accordingly, the present study examines the mediating role of regulatory-focus (promotion and prevention focus) on the relationship between TSC and happiness. Method: Data was collected from 545 individuals (65.9% female, M age = 27.52 years) regarding their TSC, regulatory focus, and happiness. Results: Mediation analyses demonstrate that TSC positively predicts happiness, while this effect was partially mediated by relatively more promotion focus and less prevention focus. Conclusion: Results suggest that people with higher TSC are happier possibly because they are: (1) more promotion-focused on acquiring positive gains thereby facilitating more approach-oriented behaviors, and (2) less prevention-focused on avoiding losses thereby reducing avoidance-oriented behaviors. These findings are relevant for topical scientific debates regarding the underlying mechanisms of self-control regarding initiatory and inhibitory behaviors.

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          Most cited references 16

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          High self-control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades, and interpersonal success.

          What good is self-control? We incorporated a new measure of individual differences in self-control into two large investigations of a broad spectrum of behaviors. The new scale showed good internal consistency and retest reliability. Higher scores on self-control correlated with a higher grade point average, better adjustment (fewer reports of psychopathology, higher self-esteem), less binge eating and alcohol abuse, better relationships and interpersonal skills, secure attachment, and more optimal emotional responses. Tests for curvilinearity failed to indicate any drawbacks of so-called overcontrol, and the positive effects remained after controlling for social desirability. Low self-control is thus a significant risk factor for a broad range of personal and interpersonal problems.
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            Taking stock of self-control: a meta-analysis of how trait self-control relates to a wide range of behaviors.

            Given assertions of the theoretical, empirical, and practical importance of self-control, this meta-analytic study sought to review evidence concerning the relationship between dispositional self-control and behavior. The authors provide a brief overview over prominent theories of self-control, identifying implicit assumptions surrounding the effects of self-control that warrant empirical testing. They report the results of a meta-analysis of 102 studies (total N = 32,648) investigating the behavioral effects of self-control using the Self-Control Scale, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, and the Low Self-Control Scale. A small to medium positive effect of self-control on behavior was found for the three scales. Only the Self-Control Scale allowed for a fine-grained analysis of conceptual moderators of the self-control behavior relation. Specifically, self-control (measured by the Self-Control Scale) related similarly to the performance of desired behaviors and the inhibition of undesired behaviors, but its effects varied dramatically across life domains (e.g., achievement, adjustment). In addition, the associations between self-control and behavior were significantly stronger for automatic (as compared to controlled) behavior and for imagined (as compared to actual) behavior.
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              Regulatory Focus and Strategic Inclinations: Promotion and Prevention in Decision-Making

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                4085873
                10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00722

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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