Melioration theory formally states that an animal will invest increasing amounts of energy and time into which option or alternative is better for them. In the field of psychology, this theory is used to help explain why organisms make choices based on the rewards or reinforcement that it receives. Based on the levels of reinforcements that are available relative to an individual's options, among other factors, someone may not always make the most optimal decisions for themself. In fact, it is an often occurrence for individuals to engage in less than ideal patterns of behavior. Additionally, although many people are aware that their choices are suboptimal, they experience difficulty with changing their habits. An example of this would be someone who decides to start eating a healthier diet but continuously consuming junk food instead. Furthermore, someone may want to drop an unhealthy habit such as cigarette smoking but can only stick with it for a few days.
When it comes to the topic of self-control, American psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner looked at it, not as an issue of willpower but more so as an issue involving conflicting outcomes. For example, when you drink alcohol you may feel more relaxed and social, but you can also experience various health issues and dangerous activities. Skinner theorized several types of controlling responses to deal with self-control; physical restraint, doing something else, self-reinforcement/self-punishment, and depriving & satiating. These strategies focus on controlling one’s own behavior and showing restraint when it comes to self-destructive habits.
Personally, self-control has been a fascinating topic to investigate. Self-control is something that I have failed to practice time and time again and with further research, I have learned some very insightful ways to better control my behavior. I believe that through practice and repetition self-control can be garnered. One article that I read discusses the topic of “ego depletion” as it relates to self-control. The article states that research has found that self-control to be a limited resource. While practicing self-control allows you to improve it over time, in the short term it is still a limited commodity. If you were to Focus all of your self-control on one thing it makes it more difficult to exercise your self-control on subsequent tasks throughout your day. So when a person uses up their reservoir of willpower on one task, it becomes very difficult to have enough self-control to complete the next task. (See article link at the bottom if interested)There is also a very interesting TED Talk on the topic of self-control that goes over innovations in the ways that we can control our behaviors through technology. Jonathan Bricker who gave the talk discusses some of the really interesting research he has conducted and the app that he developed. His app which is calle“SmartQuit” was released several years ago and is aimed toward helping people to quit smoking.
Article on self-control: https://www.verywellmind.com/psychology-of-self-control-4177125
Book reference: Powell, Russell A.; Honey, P. Lynne; Symbaluk, Diane G.. Introduction to Learning and Behavior (p. 389). Cengage Learning.