What Makes People Want More Self-Control: A Duo of Deficiency and Necessity

Liad Uziel, Roy F. Baumeister, Jessica L. Alquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Self-control is important, but people may only be motivated to improve their self-control under specific conditions. The present study tests the factors that affect the desire for self-control (DSC), expecting that it would be affected by stable level of self-control (deficiency) and by concerns about meeting current goals (necessity). Four studies (total N = 676) tested the above hypothesis. Study 1 examined the nomological network of DSC, and Study 2 explored specifically its association with the need to exert self-control. Studies 3 and 4 tested experimentally the role of need to exert self-control in increasing DSC. Results revealed that DSC is associated with low trait self-control and with fear of failure (Study 1), and with concerns about meeting current goals (Study 2). Study 3 established causality, showing that DSC increased only among those who were led to believe that their self-control was insufficient to complete an upcoming task. In Study 4, DSC increased among participants who had completed a more (vs. less) demanding task, but only when they expected another demanding task. Jointly, the findings portray the different routes leading to a desire for self-control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-251
Number of pages10
JournalMotivation Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • Desire for self-control
  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Self-control


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