Self-control! We all believe we have full control of ourselves, but do we really?

Ever decided to quit a bad habit and you either did quit but no longer then a day or two and or just never quit at all; or maybe you planned to study but then you realized the exam isn’t until next week so you watch television instead; or maybe you’re like me and decided to wake up early to go for a run, to get some exercise in but you like sleep too much to get up to actually run? Well if you have experienced or done any of theses’ according to Chapter 10 you and I both lack self-control. Self-control is explained as “choosing between two rewards, selecting a larger later reward over a smaller sooner reward”. People realize that there patterns are sub-optimal but they seem unable to change. We know what to do, but we insist on not doing it.

Trying to understand why people have such difficulty controlling their own behavior has long been a matter of assumptions. Philosopher Plato continued his belief that people engage in actions that are not in their best interest because the lack of education, and that once they realize that it is to their benefit to behave appropriately, they will do so. Whilst Philosopher Aristotle disagreed by believing that individuals often behave in ways that they clearly recognize as counterproductive.

Noting that self-control requires a certain mental faculty called “willpower”. Someone who behaves wisely and resists temptations is known to have a lot of willpower, whereas someone like myself who yields to temptation and behave poorly (that part isn’t me) has little to no willpower.

Skinner viewed self-control as not the issue of willpower but as an issue involving conflicting outcomes, example in the text is drinking alcohol, which can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. The positive outcome would be the increased confidence and feeling of relaxation; the negative outcome would be the hangover and the idiotic tattoo you found on your arm the next morning.
Reading this part of the chapter helped me realize this important trait about myself and I hope this helps you all as well. 

Powell, R., Honey, P., Symbaluk, D. (2013). Introduction to learning and behavior. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


  1. This was such a well written response!!! It helped me understand self-control a lot better. I related to the examples you used, too.

  2. I enjoyed this post of self control. Its such and interesting thing that everyone deals with in their life. Realizing how much self control you use in your life either good or bad is amazing.


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