Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Exercising Self-Control"

Here's a half-hour conversation that will make you go hmmm …

Unless, I suppose you've already got all the self-control you need. But for me, I was intrigued by the findings that Roy Baumeister described in this interview by Joshua Knobe. Give it a shot -- this is not some vapid New Agey thing. It's a summary of a career's worth of experimental results.

[Added] Strengthening this point, here's what miceelf said in the discussion forum for this diavlog:

I haven't yet watched this but looking forward to it. Baumeister wrote the definitive takedown of the self-esteem movement.

If I find out where that lives, I'll add it here.

[Added2] Elsewhere in the same thread, once again from miceelf:

This is the usual reference. It's pretty accessible for lay people as well [...]

Here's his bio, which sums it up a little:

(alt. video link)

Two things to note. First, the titles below the video pane above are links to segments of the diavlog. The times in parentheses are the lengths of the segments. Use them to sample, if you're pressed for time or find something at the start less than riveting.

Second, if you've never listened to Josh before and you find yourself a bit put off by his manner of speaking, I'd say hang in there. That was my first reaction to him, too, long ago, but I easily got past it when I realized how many really smart questions he always puts forth.

Oh, and here's a link to Roy's new book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.


Ocean said...

Why did you think that the topic of self control would have anything to do with "New Agey things"?

New Agey things have more to do with herbs, and pot, and some spirituality stuff than with self control, no?

Self control has to do with us, the obsessive compulsive traits community in its full splendor. ;)

bjkeefe said...

I suppose I might use the term too broadly, but to me, most self-help and self-improvement books fall under that heading, if for no reason other than the advice tends to be as vapid and uninspiring as the music.

Ocean said...

I've never researched the self help section of a bookstore. I hear that there's a lot of garbage to be found there. But, I've read some good self help books.

And even the obvious advice can be sometimes so grossly overlooked that it's not a bad idea to remind people or guiding them through the obvious plain common sense. Or in other words, when common sense isn't common...

There's also the possibility of customized common sense intensive treatment otherwise known as psychotherapy. But that's more expensive with no guarantees of being any less vapid or uninspiring. Although we call that resistance. ;)

Uncle Ebeneezer said...

This is an older diavlog, no? If I remember correctly I really enjoyed it. May have to watch again. This time I will exercise more control in the amount of hookers and coke that I will be enjoying on the side :)

I think I get what you meant about the correlation between the terms "self-control/self-help" and New Agey stuff. They are not always found together, but as someone who tries to avoid new Age stuff, I know that the emphasis on "self control" is often something I watch out for.

Ocean said...

We are talking about today's Science Saturday diavlog.

I don't see the connection between self help and self control. But it may just be me not knowing much about what's contained under the self-help genre. And from there to New Age topics, well, I can see self help and New Age connected, since part of the idea is that the answers are within and not outside, and from there you can go to self help as a way of finding your own path and the like.

Self control rings a different bell for me. I associate it with conservatism and perhaps even puritanism.

The central topic is, IMO, how we reach self control. Suppression or inhibition aren't advisable. They can help with practice, but they are too tricky.

Understanding how much of our behavior is plainly knee jerk conditioned may be a better way. It allows us to make real choices, therefore exercising natural self control. If only it was that easy...

bjkeefe said...

I, too, think of self-help (and excessive emphasis on boosting self-esteem for those not growing up in some horrible dysfunctional situation) as quite distinct from self-control. In fact, pursuing them almost feels like heading in opposite directions to me.

That is why I put that not-New-Agey bit in the post, so that people wouldn't be scared off by the title. I guess it did not work for our Uncle! However, Eb, I encourage you to give this one a shot. As the segment title says, Even rock stars need self-control. ;)

I felt that this diavlog, especially the part about exercising self-control in order to improve it, was quite similar to what Daniel Kahneman was talking about in recognizing when you're using system one thinking when you probably ought to be using system two.

I also agree that, sometimes, obvious things are worth saying. But at least as far as I am concerned, I've never found a self-help book to be anything but tripe.

Uncle Ebeneezer said...

Whoops just realized this was a new diavlog. I was thinking of the last one with this guy.

Gonna try to watch later when I have more time.

Btw- that Kahneman video was excellent!! Thanks for finding that.

bjkeefe said...

Glad you liked it. Thanks for letting me know.

Thanks also to Ocean, whose link to another vid on the Edge site made me discover Kahneman.