Self Control as a Finite Resource

Although many bemoaned the lack of innovative behavioral therapies for smoking in the 1990s, recently there has been a spate of new treatments‐mindfulness, acceptance therapy, persistence therapy, etc. These new treatments have often arisen from basic psychology theories that have been validated. One of these is the “Strength Model of Self‐Control” that posits one has a limited amount of self‐control and expending self‐control in one area, depletes this resource and, thus, one has less self‐control to tackle a new problem in a different area. A meta‐analysis of 83 tests of this theory found consistent support , including studies examining smoking (Hagger, Psych Bulletin 136: 495, 2010). More recent studies have suggested this effect is due, in part, to the person’s expectancy that willpower will be diminished after exerting self‐control (Job, Psychol Sci 21:1686, 2010). They also suggest that although expending self‐control on an earlier single task immediately decreases later self‐control, this effect wears off after repeatedly dealing with the earlier task (Dang, Conscious Cog 22:816, 2013). And some are even coming up with treatments to decrease the adverse effects of expending self‐control (Schmeichel, J Pers Soc Psycho 96:770, 2009).