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Fighting willpower’s catch-22

Resisting desires makes ensuing ones more tempting

By
5:02pm, January 30, 2012

SAN DIEGO — Willpower comes with a wicked kickback. Exerting self-control saps a person’s mental energy and makes the next desire that inevitably comes along feel more compelling and harder to resist, a study of people’s daily struggles with temptation found.

But people best able to resist eating sweets, going out with friends before finishing work or other temptations find ways to steer clear of such enticements altogether, so that they rarely have to resort to self-control, psychologist Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Chicago reported January 28 at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

“Willpower fluctuates throughout the day, rather than being a constant personality trait,” said psychologist and study coauthor Roy Baumeister of Florida State University in Tallahassee, who also summarized at the meeting his recent lab experiments on willpower’s mental effects. “Prior

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