Self-control in daily life: Prevalence and effectiveness of diverse self-control strategies

Marina Milyavskaya (Lead / Corresponding author), Blair Saunders, Michael Inzlicht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
1171 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: What strategies do people use to resist desires in their day‐to‐day life? How effective are these strategies? Do people use different strategies for different desires? This study addresses these questions using experience sampling to examine strategy use in daily life.

Method: Participants (N = 197, Mage = 20.4, 63% female) reported on their use of six specific strategies (situation modification, distraction, reminding self of goals, promise to give in later, reminder of why it is bad, willpower) to resist desires (4,462 desires reported over a week).

Results: Participants reported using at least one strategy 89% of the time, and more than one strategy 25% of the time. Goal reminders and promises to give in later were more likely to be used for stronger desires. People also preferred different strategies for different types of desires (e.g., eating vs. leisure vs. work, etc.).

Conclusion: In contrast to recent theoretical predictions, we find that many strategies, including inhibition, are similarly effective and that using multiple strategies is especially effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-651
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number4
Early online date31 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • desire
  • experience sampling
  • self-control
  • self-regulation
  • strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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