Self Control, Focus, Performance

In a recent study trying to figure out the relationship between self control and IMG_0987performance, researchers tested whether self-control is required for keeping attention away from anxiety-related worries that would ordinarily distract a person from performing on a test.

Study 1:

They found that anxiety had a negative impact on performance of verbal learning and mental arithmetic if participants’ self-control resources were depleted, but anxiety was unrelated if participants’ self-control was intact.

Study 2:

They found that the worry component of  test anxiety was more strongly related to perceived distraction by worries while performing an arithmetic task for participants with depleted self-control resources than for non-depleted participants.


1. People with low self-control are more likely to be distracted by negative thoughts and therefore perform worse in tasks.

2. Distraction by worries is shown to be responsible for sub-optimal performance.

3. Self-control enhances mental focus and the ability to ignore anxious thoughts.

Summary:         low self control –> distraction –> low performance

                               high self control –> mental focus –> good performance

What have we learned???       Self control is a good thing.

Role of Self-Control Strength in the Relation Between Anxiety and Cognitive Performance by Bertrams, Alex; Englert, Chris; Dickhäuser, Oliver; Baumeister, Roy F. Emotion, Mar 25, 2013.


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