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Being resolute with resolutions

The effects of self-control on keeping resolutions

University of Chicago Press Journals

Why is it that the health club you've been a member of for years is suddenly inundated with rather out-of-shape "athletes" every time January comes around? Then, as quickly as the wave comes, it dissipates after only a few weeks. Undoubtedly, the mad rush to workout is linked to the New Year. New research by Anirban Mukhopadhyay (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and Gita Johar (Columbia University) published in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that while self-control is indeed an important variable, belief in self-control may be more important.

"Every year a hundred million Americans and countless others worldwide set themselves goals to achieve in the coming New Year," write the authors. "What determines how many goals people set, and how successful they are? To date, little research has systematically investigated these issues. This paper examines the role of consumers' lay theories of self-control in goal setting and attainment."

The researchers turned the tables on the more accepted, and possibly expected, theory that success with resolutions has to do with one's self-control. Interestingly, while it may have to do with self-control itself, the authors suggest it has to do more with what one believes about it.

"In this paper, we present a different look at the relationship between self-control and goal setting/achievement. Rather than assuming that success at achieving goals is a manifestation of effective self-control, we propose that lay theories about the nature of self-control (i.e., individual differences in naïve beliefs regarding self-control) affect the setting and achieving of personal goals," explain Mukhopadhyay and Johar.


Where There is a Will, Is There a Way? Effects of Lay Theories of Self-Control on Setting and Keeping Resolutions. By ANIRBAN MUKHOPADHYAY and GITA VENKATARAMANI JOHAR. © 2005 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. - Vol. 31 - March 2005 All rights reserved.

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