The Dynamics of Self-Control Conflicts in Daily Life in Predicting Self-Control Success and Perceived Self-Regulatory Effectiveness

Emily M. Britton, Kristin Laurin, Igor Grossmann, Anna Dorfman, Harrison Oakes, Abigail A. Scholer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People often face conflicts where they must choose between their long-term goals and tempting alternatives. Using an open-ended daily diary design, we investigated the characteristics of self-control conflicts in daily life, both replicating and extending past work. Specifically, we examined the factors that affected self-control conflict success, as well as how the nature and resolution of the conflict affected general perceptions of self-regulatory effectiveness. Self-control conflicts varied considerably within-persons including the domain of the conflict, the use of strategies, and whether they were successfully resolved. There was also variability in people’s subjective perceptions of how pulled they felt towards the temptation and the opposing goal, as well as how difficult and important the overall decision was. Furthermore, these factors predicted whether a conflict was resolved successfully (i.e., in favor of the goal), with pull towards the temptation emerging as the strongest predictor. People were also more successful in resolving self-control conflicts when they reported using any type of self-regulatory strategy; no specific strategy emerged as most effective. On days when participants successfully resolved conflicts, they also felt more confident in their general ability to self-regulate. Overall, our findings largely conceptually replicate past work using an open-ended diary format, and suggest that factors influencing self-control conflict resolution are also linked to general feelings of self-regulatory effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number88158
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 16 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 University of California Press. All rights reserved.


This research was supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grants 435-2014-0685 (to I. Grossmann) and 435-2017-0184 (to A. Scholer), Early Researcher Award ER16-12-169 from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (to I. Grossmann), and Templeton Science of Prospection Award (to I. Grossmann).

FundersFunder number
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada435-2017-0184, ER16-12-169, 435-2014-0685
Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science


    • daily diary
    • goal pursuit
    • self-control conflicts
    • self-regulation


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