What Are Dynamics of Self-Control?

1. How Dynamics of Self-Control Are Distinctive, and the Need for Self-Control: The dynamics of self-control begin with a sense of wanting to do something and carrying through on it. What kinds of activities are enhanced by self-control? Can you describe what personality is like when the individual loses self-control?

2. Aims of Self-Control: When people’s goals are studied in surveys, certain goals appear again and again, and some of them are more important than others. For example, relationship goals are consistently among the most important in people’s estimations. What other goals are of importance?


How Does Self-Control Occur?

3. The Problem of the Egotistical Ego: From some standpoints, it is altogether normal to see the world in an egotistical fashion. People’s memories, for example, naturally revolve around themselves as actors. Greenwald described the ego as experiencing three biases or qualities so as to maintain its positive self-regard; can you identify them and provide examples of each?

4. Feedback and the Feedback Loop: Norbert Wiener, the founder of cybernetics, identified negative feedback loops as a central part of the self-control of systems. Can you identify the parts of a feedback loop? How can feedback loops be applied to self-control in personality?

5. The Search for—and Effect of—Feedback: Do people actually seek feedback? There is a psychological dimension called “self-monitoring.” People high in self-monitoring do seem more prone to seeking feedback. Can self-monitoring be induced? If so, how?

6. Self-Control as a Hierarchy of Feedback Loops: How did Powers apply feedback loops to personality? What would be an example of a feedback loop at the motor level, the mid-level of personality, and at the highest levels of plans and goals?

7. Levels of Action and Behavioral Identification: Wegner and Vallacher examined how people conceived of their own acts. Sometimes people view their actions as relatively basic and mechanical, and at other times as involving higher levels of planning. What difference, if any, does this make?

8. Bottom-Up Control: Freud suggested that lower levels of control are in charge, and higher levels often follow along. What part of personality was most in control, according to Freud? Does this make sense to you?

9. Kelly’s Circumspection-Preemption-Control Cycle: In Kelly’s C-P-C cycle, people begin looking at a decision by circumspecting—that is, by connecting their own characteristics, values, and goals to the various possible alternatives. At some point they narrow down alternatives and exert control to make a decision. How do people get stuck in the CPC cycle—and what happens if they exit it too quickly?


Is Self-Control Always Conscious?

10. Automatic Self-Control and Dissociation: Consciousness is limited, and for that reason, much control must be unconscious. What is dissociation?

11. Dissociation and the Unconscious: Janet suggested that, in dissociation, people disassociate ideas from their consciousness. Then those ideas might take on a life of their own. How did Hilgard apply his revised theory of dissociation (neo-dissociation theory) to pain control?

12. Divided Consciousness and Hypnosis: People dissociate in everyday life, and some people seem very responsive to suggestions. Can you give some examples of each?

13. The Characteristics of the Hypnotic State: Hilgard enumerated several characteristics of people in hypnotic states; these ranged from the suppression of planning to enhanced role-taking. What were some of the other characteristics?

14. Individual Differences in Dissociation: Some people dissociate rather frequently and are higher in hypnotic suggestibility. According to studies by Josephine Hilgard, these individuals found “paths” into hypnosis at an early age, becoming involved in fantasies around artwork and religion. Can you identify some additional paths of fantasy involvement?

15. Positive Affirmations: Positive affirmations involve repeating general, simple, positive statements about oneself over and over. Why are the affirmations repeated, and why have some argued that it is best for them to be simple and general? Are there any research findings that show such affirmations work?


How Do We Deal with the Pain of Falling Short?

16. Hierarchies of Defense Mechanisms: Defenses can be ordered from the immature to the mature. What is an example of an immature defense? Of an intermediate defense? Of a mature defense?

17. Specific Defenses: What is the defense of denial? If children employ that defense, does that mean they are having psychological problems? What is reaction formation, and how can you recognize it? Can you name the remaining specific defenses covered here and say something about them?

18. Suppression: One way people have of maintaining their positive self-regard is to avoid thinking of negative events or problems. What sorts of suppression do people use when experiencing a bad mood? What happens when people do successfully suppress material? (Hint: Do the suppressed thoughts come back?)

19. Repression: Repression involves the forgetting of unsettling material. How is it the same and how is it different from suppression? What research evidence shows that repression takes place? Does everyone who is exposed to trauma repress the event?


What Difference Does Self-Control Make?

20. Control versus Impulsiveness: Research often looks at those who can exert conscious self-control versus those who seem overcome by impulsiveness. A classic study was conducted on children’s ability to delay gratification. Who conducted the study, and what strategies did the children use to get a valued treat?

21. Learning Conscious Self-Control: The study of children’s delay of gratification found that when they distracted themselves they were able to delay their gratification best. Is distraction always a good strategy? Would it work for motivating a person to go to the gym? If not, what strategy would work?

22. Is Self-Control Important? Self-control is an important predictor of academic success, in terms of grades and graduation. Does it predict other positive outcomes?