The Science of Willpower

Secrets for self-control without suffering

This Week in Willpower

A round-up of willpower news, scientific studies, and oddities on the web.

Each week I scour the web for a round-up of interesting news stories, scientific studies, and oddities on the web. Ladies and gentlemen, this was the week on willpower:

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the new finding that people who multi-task are worse at it than people who rarely multi-task. It's possible that the process of multi-tasking actually erodes your ability to focus. Thanks to the New York Times, you can now take the tests the researchers used to test multi-tasking and focus. (I scored 100% on the focus test, thanks meditation!)

The New York Times also has this great piece on how technology may be changing our brains (and not in a good way), making us more easily distracted.  A follow-up piece considers whether it is even possible to disconnect from technology, and offers steps for digital detox.

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The Nudge Blog dug up this video that cleverly illustrates a talk by "Drive" author Daniel Pink on what really motivates us (hint: not money).

A new study in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry finds that pathological gambling has a heritability quotient of 49%. For those who aren't behavioral geneticists, that is mighty high. But remember that a genetic vulnerability isn't an inevitability. So if Uncle Stan or Mom has a reserved seat at the slot machines, it might be a good idea to stay away from the casinos before you get hooked.

Finally, a new report in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior finds that fast food and junk food companies have a new way to get kids excited about their products (as if they really need more). The trend is "advergames" -- online games that heavily feature and promote the companies's food products. In some cases, players need to buy the product to get the passcode that will allow them to advance to the next level. Whether or not this is worse than the stickers in the box of cereal that used to get me to pester my parents, I don't know. (My parents never gave in, by the way.)

Got other tips/links? Post 'em in the comments section. Thanks!

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is a health psychologist at Stanford University.

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