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Title: The flexible nature of self-control
Abstract: Self-control has traditionally been defined as the effortful inhibition of unwanted desires; however, recent theorizing suggests that self-control can also be effortless as a function of using different strategies to regulate these desires. According to the process model (Duckworth et al., 2016), self-control can be more strategic (and therefore less effortful) by changing aspects of the environment that help avoid temptations altogether, whereas more reactive strategies (e.g., inhibition) that aim to cope with an existing temptation are often more difficult to use. Expanding on the process model, my work (Werner & Ford, 2021) explores the dynamic nature of self-control, including how motivation influences the need for self-control (when do we need self-control?) and flexible strategy use (what strategies are best in a particular situation?). Drawing from research in parallel fields (e.g., emotion regulation, health psychology) and other theories of self-regulation, I will present a series of studies examining the role of contextual and individual differences (e.g., conflict, motivation) during the self-control process. Finally, I conclude by highlighting the importance of helping people build a more well-equipped “strategy toolbox” so that they are adequately equipped to handle any conflicts that may arise in the pursuit of their goals.