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Being active and impulsive: the role of goals for action and inaction in self-control

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Motivation and Emotion
Issue number4
Volume36
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)416-424
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Although self-control often requires behavioral inaction (i.e., not eating a piece of cake), the process of inhibiting impulsive behavior is commonly characterized as cognitively active (i.e., actively exerting self-control). Two experiments examined whether motivation for action or inaction facilitates self-control behavior in the presence of tempting stimuli. Experiment 1 used a delay discounting task to assess the ability to delay gratification with respect to money. Experiment 2 used a Go/No-Go task to assess the ability to inhibit a dominant but incorrect motor response to the words “condom” and “sex”. The results demonstrate that goals for inaction promote self-control, whereas goals for action promote impulsive behavior. These findings are discussed in light of recent evidence suggesting that goals for action and inaction modulate physiological resources that promote behavioral execution.