2016-04-18Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00382
Decomposing Self-Control: Individual Differences in Goal Pursuit Despite Interfering Aversion, Temptation, and Distraction
Self-control can be defined as the ability to exert control over ones impulses. Currently, most research in the area relies on self-report. Focusing on attentional control processes involved in self-control, we modified a spatial selective attentional cueing task to test three domains of self-control experimentally in one task using aversive, tempting, and neutral picture-distractors. The aims of the study were (1) to investigate individual differences in the susceptibility to aversive, tempting, and neutral distraction within one paradigm and (2) to test the association of these three self-control domains to conventional measures of self-control including self-report. The final sample consisted of 116 participants. The task required participants to identify target letters “E” or “F” presented at a cued target location while the distractors were presented. Behavioral and eyetracking data were obtained during the performance of the task. High task performance was encouraged via monetary incentives. In addition to the attentional self-control task, self-reported self-control was assessed and participants performed a color Stroop task, an unsolvable anagram task and a delay of gratification task using chocolate sweets. We found that aversion, temptation, and neutral distraction were associated with significantly increased error rates, reaction times and gaze pattern deviations. Overall task performance on our task correlated with self-reported self-control ability. Measures of aversion, temptation, and distraction showed moderate split-half reliability, but did not correlate with each other across participants. Additionally, participants who made a self-controlled decision in the delay of gratification task were less distracted by temptations in our task than participants who made an impulsive choice. Our individual differences analyses suggest that (1) the ability to endure aversion, resist temptations and ignore neutral distractions are independent of each other and (2) these three domains are related to other measures of self-control.
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