Too much of a good thing? Exploring the inverted-U relationship between self-control and happiness

Christopher W. Wiese, Louis Tay, Angela L. Duckworth, Sidney D’Mello, Lauren Kuykendall, Wilhelm Hofmann, Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Can having too much self-control make people unhappy? Researchers have increasingly questioned the unilateral goodness of self-control and proposed that it is beneficial only up to a certain point, after which it becomes detrimental. The little empirical research on the issue shows mixed results. Hence, we tested whether a curvilinear relationship between self-control and subjective well-being exists. Method: We used multiple metrics (questionnaires, behavioral ratings), sources (self-report, other-report), and methods (cross-sectional measurement, dayreconstruction method, experience sampling method) across six studies (Ntotal = 5,318). Results: We found that self-control positively predicted subjective well-being (cognitive and affective), but there was little evidence for an inverted U-shaped curve. The results held after statistically controlling for demographics and other psychological confounds. Conclusion: Our main finding is that self-control enhances subjective well-being with little to no apparent downside of too much self-control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-396
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of personality
Volume86
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Institute on Aging (Grants K01-AG033182-02 and R24-AG048081-01), Character Lab, the Gates Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, the National Science Foundation (DRL 1235958 and IIS 1523091), and the German Science Foundation (grants HO 4175/3-1 and HO 4175/4-1)

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Preparation of this manuscript was supported by the National Institute on Aging (Grants K01-AG033182-02 and R24-AG048081-01), Character Lab, the Gates Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, the National Science Foundation (DRL 1235958 and IIS 1523091), and the German Science Foundation (grants HO 4175/3-1 and HO 4175/4-1). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords

  • curvilinear
  • happiness
  • self-control
  • self-regulation
  • well-being

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Too much of a good thing? Exploring the inverted-U relationship between self-control and happiness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this