How Willpower Works

  Prev Next  


10 Ways Your Memory Is Completely Inaccurate

10 Ways Your Memory Is Completely Inaccurate

Your memory isn't as trustworthy as you think. Learn 10 ways your memory is completely inaccurate at HowStuffWorks.

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.

Related Articles


  • Baumeister, Roy et al. "Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource?" The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1998. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • 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)
  • Gots, Jason. "The Neuroscience of Success." The Big Think. Aug. 7, 2011. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • Hansen, Mogens Herman. "Democratic Freedom and the Concept of Freedom in Plato and Aristotle." Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 50. 2010. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • Kroen, Gretchen Cuda. "Kid's Sugar Cravings Might be Biological." NPR: The Salt. Sept. 26, 2011. (Dec. 17, 2012)
  • Lehrer, Jonah. "The secret life of self control." The New Yorker. May 18, 2009. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • Lieberman, Daniel E. "Evolution's Sweet Tooth." The New York Times. June 5, 2012. (Dec. 17, 2012)
  • 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)
  • Severns, Maggie. "Reconsidering the Marshmallow Test." Slate. Oct. 16, 2012. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • Tierney, John. "Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?" The New York Times. Aug. 17, 2011. (Dec. 17, 2012)
  • Villarica, Hans. "The Chocolate-and-Radish Experiment That Birthed the Modern Conception of Willpower." The Atlantic. April 9, 2012. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • Walton, Greg and Carol Dweck. "Willpower: It's in Your Head." The New York Times. Nov. 26, 2011. (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • "Willpower: How to increase it, how to measure it." The Economic Times. Oct. 9, 2011. (Dec. 18, 2012)