Deutsch: Theorie der Selbstkontrolle / Español: Teoría del autocontrol / Português: Teoria do autocontrole / Français: Théorie du contrôle de soi / Italiano: Teoria del autocontrollo

Self-Control Theory, in the context of psychology, refers to a framework that examines how individuals regulate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve long-term goals, often in the face of short-term temptations or impulses. This theory is pivotal in understanding various aspects of human behavior, including decision-making, discipline, and willpower. It is closely related to the concept of self-regulation and is considered a crucial element in the study of personality psychology, behavioral psychology, and social psychology.


Self-Control Theory posits that individuals have a finite reservoir of self-control that can be depleted by acts of self-regulation. This concept, known as ego depletion, suggests that exercising self-control in one area can temporarily reduce the capacity to exert self-control in other areas. A key figure associated with this theory is psychologist Roy Baumeister, who, along with his colleagues, has conducted extensive research on self-control and its implications for personal well-being, social relationships, and moral behavior.

Application Areas

Self-Control Theory has broad applications across various fields within psychology:

  • Health Psychology: Understanding and promoting behaviors that contribute to physical health, such as exercise and healthy eating, often require significant self-control.
  • Educational Psychology: Self-control plays a critical role in academic success, as it helps students manage distractions, persist in challenging tasks, and prioritize long-term academic goals over immediate pleasures.
  • Clinical Psychology: Treatments for various psychological conditions, including addictions and compulsive behaviors, often involve strategies to enhance self-control and manage impulses effectively.

Well-Known Examples

A well-known study related to Self-Control Theory is the "marshmallow test," conducted by Walter Mischel in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In this experiment, children were offered a choice between one marshmallow they could eat immediately or two marshmallows if they waited for a short period. The study found that children who were able to wait for the larger reward tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by various indicators of success in adulthood, highlighting the importance of self-control from a young age.

Treatment and Risks

The challenges associated with low self-control include a greater propensity for impulsive behavior, difficulty in achieving long-term goals, and an increased risk of various social and personal problems. Strategies to enhance self-control include setting clear goals, monitoring behavior, developing coping strategies to deal with temptations, and practicing self-compassion to manage failures. Psychological interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can also be effective in improving self-control by addressing underlying cognitive and emotional patterns.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Self-regulation
  • Willpower


Self-Control Theory in psychology explores the mechanisms by which individuals regulate their behavior to achieve long-term objectives, despite short-term challenges. This theory sheds light on the importance of self-control in various life domains, including health, education, and social functioning. Understanding and enhancing self-control is a vital aspect of promoting psychological well-being and achieving personal and professional goals.


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