Lots More Information

Author's Note: How Willpower Works

Willpower victories and failures happen every day. Even as I was writing this, I observed my dwindling reserves of willpower in my own life. Following some research and planning, I wrote the first page on a Monday afternoon. The following day, I started bright and early, powering through the rest of the first draft. But then came Wednesday.

Wednesday is the day that Julie and I record episodes of "Stuff to Blow Your Mind," so the entire morning consisted of last-minute additions to notes and time in the studio. By the afternoon, my brain felt a bit drained. So when edits came back to me from Allison, I managed to kill an hour tending to my work social media pages and tending to listener mail. After that, I still didn't have the willpower to dive back into the edits.

And that's when I spied the giant jar of gummy bears. They gleamed like globs of liquid rainbow in the afternoon sun. And I remembered they were left over from the office holiday party. I gobbled down one handful. Then, to my shame, I reached in again.

Now, riding a wave of restorative glucose, I'm finally finishing the article up. That's science in action for you.

Sources

  • Baumeister, Roy et al. "Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource?" The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1998. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://faculty.washington.edu/jdb/345/345%20Articles/Baumeister%20et%20al.%20%281998%29.pdf
  • Bruyneel, Sabrina. "The Role of Cognitive Processes in Overcoming Self-Control Failures." Advances in Consumer Research - North American Conference Process. January 2008.
  • Goodier, Robert. "Brain's Willpower Spot Found" Live Science. May 29, 2009. (Dec. 19, 2012) http://www.livescience.com/3553-brain-willpower-spot.html
  • Gots, Jason. "The Neuroscience of Success." The Big Think. Aug. 7, 2011. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://bigthink.com/think-tank/the-neuroscience-of-success
  • Hansen, Mogens Herman. "Democratic Freedom and the Concept of Freedom in Plato and Aristotle." Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 50. 2010. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://www.duke.edu/web/classics/grbs/FTexts/50/Hansen1.pdf
  • Kroen, Gretchen Cuda. "Kid's Sugar Cravings Might be Biological." NPR: The Salt. Sept. 26, 2011. (Dec. 17, 2012) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/09/26/140753048/kids-sugar-cravings-might-be-biological
  • Lehrer, Jonah. "The secret life of self control." The New Yorker. May 18, 2009. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer
  • Lieberman, Daniel E. "Evolution's Sweet Tooth." The New York Times. June 5, 2012. (Dec. 17, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/opinion/evolutions-sweet-tooth.html
  • O'Connor, Timothy. "Free Will." Free Will: Critical Concepts in Philosophy. Routledge. Nov. 11, 2005.
  • Raskin, Andy. "How to lead your customer into temptation." CNN. May 4, 2006. (Dec. 19, 2012) http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2006/05/01/8375932/index.htm
  • Severns, Maggie. "Reconsidering the Marshmallow Test." Slate. Oct. 16, 2012. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/10/16/the_marshmallow_study_revisited_kids_will_delay_gratifcation_if_they_trust.html
  • Tierney, John. "Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?" The New York Times. Aug. 17, 2011. (Dec. 17, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  • Villarica, Hans. "The Chocolate-and-Radish Experiment That Birthed the Modern Conception of Willpower." The Atlantic. April 9, 2012. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/the-chocolate-and-radish-experiment-that-birthed-the-modern-conception-of-willpower/255544/
  • Walton, Greg and Carol Dweck. "Willpower: It's in Your Head." The New York Times. Nov. 26, 2011. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/opinion/sunday/willpower-its-in-your-head.html?_r=0
  • "Willpower: How to increase it, how to measure it." The Economic Times. Oct. 9, 2011. (Dec. 18, 2012) http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-10-09/news/30258332_1_willpower-hypnosis-control