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Understanding Self-Regulation
An Introduction
This handbook offers a vast overview of the state of the art of research into eme of the
most exciting and challcnging topics in all of human behavior. Self-regulation rcfers to
the many processes by which the human psyche exercises control over its functions,
states, and inner processes. lt is an important key ro how the self is put together. Most
broadly, it is essential for transforming the inner animal nature into a civilized human be-
We deliberately cast a very wide net in putting this book rogether. We wanted cogni-
tive processes and motivational ones. We wanted basic research and practica! applica-
tions. We research on children and adults. We wanted deliberare, conscious pro-
cesses and automatic, nonconscious ones. Rather than try to promote a particular theory
or approach to the topic, we sought to indude every available perspective. In faC', our
only regrets about this experience center on the two chapters we failed to obtain, beca use
they would have added two more views. As it was, however, we were ihrilléd with the
positive response we received: Almost evcry author we invited accepted.
Our divcrsity of perspectives necessarily entails that thc chapters do not share the same
definition of self-regulation, but sorne common thcmes ha ve emerged, so that we can de-
fine our topic. Sorne definition is ccrtainly neccssary insofar as "sclf-rcguLltion" and
"self-control" are used in different ways by diffcrent authors. We use thc terms "sdf-
control" and "self-regulation" interchangeably, though sorne researchcrs make su'btle dis-
tmcnons bctween the two (such as by using "self-n:gulation" more broadly to refcr ro
goal-directed bchavior or to feedback loops, whcrcas "self-control" may be associated
spccifically with conscious impulse control).
' 1

An lntroduction
Connotations aside, "regulation" carries the meaning of "conirol" with a hint of
regularity. In ·that sense, self-rcgulation refers to the exercise of control over onesclf, espe-
cially with regard to bringing the self into line with prefcrred (thus, .regular)
Such processes can be found deep in nature. For example, the body s homeostatiC pro-
cesses can be considered a form of sclf-regulation insofar as the human body performs
various functions to maintain a constan! temperature. If the body gets ovcrheated or
chilled, its inner processes seek to return it to its regular tcmperature. . .
The term "self-regulation" ,has in psychology also taken on the connotanon of regu-
lation by the self (thus, not just of the self). Thc psychological self is usual_lr much m-
volved in rcgulating body tempcrature, but it may be called into strenuous acnon to res 1st
temptation or to overcome anxiety. The importance of regulation by the self has helped
eleva te sclf-regulation to become onc of the central intcrests of researchcrs who study the
self (see Carver & Scheier, 1981, 1998).
Thus one definition of "sclf-regulation" encompasses any efforts by the human self
to alter of its own inner states or responses. We ha ve previ?usly described sdf-regula-
tion in terms of people regulating their thoughts, emonons, Impulses or appcmes, and
task performances. Based on this volume, we amend that list to include attentwnal pro·
cesses as another domain of regulated responses.
Another definitional issue is whether "self-regulation" sbould be restricted to con-
scious processes. On this matter, the field has evolvcd from a tcntative answer of "y es" to
a firmer "no." There is still an emphasis on conscious, deliherate cfforts at self-rcgub-
tion, and sorne chaptcrs focus almost exclusively on such processes (e.g., thc inner strug-
gle to resist tcmptation). Bm evidencc has increasingly accumulatcd to show thc unpor-
tance of automatic or non((>nscious processes in self-regulation, and somc ofd•c chaptcrs
in this volume specifically review such contributions. For purposes of dcfinition, there-
fore, it is importan! to recognize both conscious and nonconscious processes,_ and to ap-
preciate their differences even while recognizing that somc experts w11l connnuc to use
the term "self-regulation" to refcr primarily or evcn exclusively to the conscwus, pro-
Differences of emphasis are also prominent. Research on sclf-regulation was
greatly influenced by cybernetic theory, which showed how evcn inanimate mcchanisms
can regulare themselves by making adjustments according to programmed goals or
standards. Much of this thinking was motivated by the attempt to destgn weapon sys-
tems, such as missiles, <hat could be made more accurate if they adjustcd their course
while in flight. A more common, .everyday example is the thcrmostat that controls a
heating and cooling system to maintain a desired temperature in .a Carver and
'Scheier's ( 1981) landmark treatrnent of self-awarencss as self-regulanon emphas1zed
these applications of cybernetic theory (especially the feedback loop)_ to how pcopl_e
monitor their states in relation to goals or other standards, and thc mfluence of th1s
work has kept feedback loops and other sclf-monitoring proccsscs at the center of
much work on self-regulation. Meanwhile, though, orher workers have emphas1zed
processes of change (the "operation" phase of the feedback loop), for examplc, by
examin¡'ng how people bring about an improvement in their current statc (P.g.,
Baumeister, Bratslavsky, r-..Iuraven, & Tice, 1998; Vohs & Schmeichcl, 2003). Al-
though, superficially, these two approaches may seem to be talking about vast!y diffcr-
ent phcnomena, we regard them as quite compatible. Ultimatcly self-rcgulation cannot
succeed unless it is successful both at monitoring the state in relation to the goal and at
making thc changes and adjustments as dcsired.
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An lntroduction 3
Self-regulation has two sides: an applied side and a theoretical sidc. Although the "two
sides" description is truc of many topics in psychology, the study of self-regulation (per-
haps unlike sorne other topics) is influential only whcn it contributes to both theory and
practice. lt is not surprising, then, that the chapters in this volume provide not only gen-
eral models that can be used to predict behavior scientifically but also give insightful in-
structions as to how to better one's life.
A recognition of the practica! significance of self-regubtion brings about rhe real-
ization of its profound impa..:t on people's everyday struggles. from our perspectivc,
nearly every major personal and social problem affecting large numbers of citi-
zens in vol ves. sorne kind of failure of self-regulation, albeit in the context of broader
social influenccs. Alcoholism, cigarette smoking, and drug addiction rcflcct the failure
to subdue one's escalating appetites for these pleasure-g:ving substanccs. Somc ohesity
and sorne eating disorders reflect the inability to keep one's eatmg (cspecially of fatty
foods) down to a sensible leve!. The failure to control one's \ISe of moncy is somctimcs
implicated in problems people have with debt, excessive spcnding, and failure to save
money (whether for emergencies or for anticipatcd future cxpenditurcs such as thc chil-
dren's education, or even for retirement). Crime and violence often rdlcct the failurc ro
control one's aggressive impulses. Emotional problcms generally involve the failurc to
avoid or to rec?ver from unwanted feelings. Many health problems stcm from faih11
to cxercise or to eat healthy foods when they are available. Undcrachicvcment in work'
and school may stem from a lack of regulation to make oneself study. Procr.tstination,
which leads to increased stress and inferior performance quality, stcms from a failurc
to kcep one's work moving on a proper schedule. Evcn such complex problcms Js the
sprcad of sexually transmitted diseases and the prevalence of unwanted prq;nancy
could be reduced by taking simple, often-neglectcd steps. Sclf-regul.nion
also may play a mediatmg role in sorne clinical phenomena such as attcntion-deficiUhv-
peractivity_ (sec Barkley, 1997). Thus, a broad range of bad outcomes can be
linked to sclf-regulatory factors.
The secoud route into self-regulation research emphasizes theory rathcr than practi-
apphcatwns. Self-re?ulation holds a pivota! place in self theory and, thus, is a key to
many d1fferent aspects of psychological functioning. Psychologists have
been studymg seiL•nd 1dent1ty for decadcs, but in the last rwo decades, they ha ve cometo
apprec1ate that no account of the self can be anywhere near complete without an under-
J:., dtapdm•g,of how the self maintains over itself and makes the adjusrments that it
eems ocst to mamtam harmony w1th 1ts soc1al and phys1cal environment.
· The theoretical importance of self-regulation is likcly to grow furrher. In rt:cent de-
cades, therc has been an increasing effort by psychologists ro the phenomena thcy
study m the broad contexts of evolutionary biology and cultural influence (movements
will increas<.' psycholog}'> ties to related ficlds such as biology and anthropology).
e thmk thJt the evolutlon of self-regulation will prove ro be one of the Jefining featurcs
of human evolutwn, contributing sorne oi the central abilities that ha ve maJe human be-
.d1stmcuvely human. lt is also crucial for culture insofar as sclf-rcgulation allows the
ammal naturc to be brought mto linc with thc dcmands and idcals of vastly differ-
cultures. _lndeed, the argumcnt that natural sclcction shaped hunwl na tu re spccifi-
the Y for part1c1panon m culture prcss) holds that self-regularion is one of
most unportant factors m makmg 1t poSSJble for human beings ro live as rhcy do. All
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An lntroduction
cultures require self-regulation and punish its failures, even though they may diffcr as to
what impulses must be regulated and when (ur which) lapses may be permltted.
This volume brings together preeminent social, personality. consumer, dinical, and devel-
opmental psychologists who have devoted their carecrs to the study of goal pursu1t, all
· manner of controlled processes, and thc (primarily unantic1pated) consequences ot self-
control failure. We have divided the chapters into six sections, featuring basic processes;
cognitivc, physiological, and neural dimensions; developrnent of self-regulation; interper-
sonal components of self-regulation; individual differcnces and psychopathologies; and
consequences of sclf-regulatory failure. We feel that these sewons mcely dcmonstrate the
range of self-rcgulatory effects, while also providing a fundamental framework With
which many resean:hers resonare in tt'rms of thcir undcrstandmg of how sdf-rcgulatiOn
In Pan J.we ha ve amassed authors whose work is the bcdrock of self-rcgulation sci-
ence. Carver's seminal work on thc cybcrnetic aspccts of self-regulation is revisited in
Chapter 2. Carver uses his new ideas on action to undcrstand better the role nf affect in
self-regulation. He pursues thc idea that affect, in the context of regulatory goals, serves
as a signa! as to how well or poorly one is doing at achicving one's r,oals.. ·
Larscn and Prizmic (Chaptcr 3) also focus on affect m the1r contnbuuon, but they
approach the topic from a broader perspective, providing a rich and detailed overview of
the rescarch on affect regulation. They effectively point out the lustory of affect rcgula-
tion research, the differences betwecn downregulating negativc affect and upregulating
positive affect, various models used to predict regulation styks, and thcy condude
by noting sorne essential paths that future rcsearch in aftect regulanon take.
The basic processes of self-rcgulation are represented m the bram, accordmg ro thc
chapter on ncuroscientific propcrtics of self-control by Banfield, Wyland, Macrac,
Miinte, anq Heatherton. Their cbaptcr is devoted to outlining thc function and structurc
of the prefrontal cortcx in the irontallobes, whicb is thc control center of bram, tben
linking tlie operations of the prefmntal cortex to regulatory constructs such as attentiOn,
dccision making, planning, and inhibition.
Turning toa different approach to studying self-regulation, Schmeichel and Baumeister
(Chapter 5) givc a thorough overview of thcir research program on sclf-regulauon as a
limited resource_ Whereas others pursuc self-regulation in terms of feedback loops
(Carver, Chapter 2), patterns of brain activation (Banfield et al., Chapter 4), oras a cog-
nitive-affective control system (Mischel & Ayduk, Cbaptcr 6), this chapter concentrares
the internal processes governing thc action of gctting frorn hcre to thcre. This model
has led to steady a·:lvances in predicting how and when pcoplc are apt to be unsuccessful
in regulating tremselvcs. . . .
In Chapter 6, Mischel and Ayduk's account of selt-rcgulation cmphas1zes cffortful
control and willpower. Drawing from a wcalth of data, such as data glcaned from the
myriad smdies on dclay of gratification cffects, as well as sophisticatcd modcls of cogni;
tion, affcct, and neuroscience, this ch.tptcr encapsulares thc concept of wlilpowcr as hoth
an individual dificrence andas a sct of interna) processcs. Mischel and Ayduk also call on
rc\carchers ro undcrst;tnd bettcr whethcr effortful control ctn be taught, which in thcir .
' vicw is a question ot utmnst importance as we head into the 1\cw century.
An lntroduction 5
Rounding out the first secnon on hasic proccsscs, Chapter 7 on behavioral change is
by Rothman, Baldwin, and Hertd. This chapter provides a unique viewpoint on hehav-
ioral change by specifying that the initiation and maintenance of behavioral change cf-
forts are guided by different underlying systems. Rotbman et al. dcmonstrate that al-
though people rnay start their rcgulatory endeavors hecause of the outcomes thcy wish to
obtain, thcir continuation of these acts dcpends mainly on their satisfaction with pcr-
ceivcd progress. Data frorn smoking, eating, and other health-relevant studics confirm
their ideas.
Part 11 features chapters on the cognirive, neural, and physiological aspects of sclf-
regulation. Fitzsimons and Bargh lead the way in Chaptcr 8 by asscrting that sclf-regula-
tion need not be consciously intended or guidcd. This model of nonconscious, automatic
sclf-regulation has opened up avenues of research prcviously not imagined by showing
that pcople's behaviors and responses are sometimes aimcd at goals thcy thcmsclvcs did
not rcalize, beca use the goals were activatc.>d outside of awarc.>ness. Thcir studies are pcr-
fcct exemplars of the idea that the rheory-practice dichotomy can be bridged in one re-
search srream.
People can be said to have two different types of goals: núrturancc-rclated and
safcry-related. According to Higgins and Spiegel (Chapter 9), these two types of goals
ha ve vastly different consequcnces in terms of the responses thcy sct into motion, the cues
for which one is vigilant, and the outcomcs to be achieved. Drawing on the rcgulatory fo-
c.us model, Higgins and Spiegel show how chronically acrivated promotion (nurturance-
related goals) or prevcntion (safety-related goals) mindscts, or situational features that
prime eithcr mindset, influence judgment processes. Their chapter also highlights a new
arca of the idea of transfer of value from fir. This model, which cmphasizcs a
match bctween people's current means of goal pursuit and their chronic orientation to-
ward goal achievcment, is sure to ha ve a great impact on regulation research for dccades
to come.
The role of expectations in goal pursmt IS addressed by Ccrvonc, Mor, Orom,
Shadel, and Scott in Chapter 10 on self-efficacy. Using a social-cognitive-afícct modcl,
Cervone and colleagues place self-efficacy il) the context of both enduring goal structures
and dynamically occurring goal pursuits, which ties together disparate types of research
into one cohesive model.
The idea of expectations is also echoed in the work of Gollwitzer, Fujira, · and
Oettingen (Chapter 11 ), albeit in a slightly different fashioh. Their rc.>search on implemen-
tation intentions underscores the need for privately endorsed rules that estahlish a line of
action to facilitare goal implementation, particularly in the face of obstacles or difficult
regulatory tasks. Gollwitzer's research has shown that effective self-regulation is grcatly
enhanced by the use of implcmentation intentions, which set up a series of "ií- ... then"
contingc.>ncies to help grapple with situations that may inadvertently alter onc's bchaviors
away from the intended goal.
The theme of cognitive, physiological, and ncuroscientiíic dimensions of self-rcgula-
tion is fully incorporated by the last chapter in this secuon. Ochsncr ami Gross (Chapter
I 2) d1scuss a social-cognitive neuroscience approach to emotion regulation. This chapter
m a sense a counterpart to the entry by Banfield and collcagues (Ch.tpter 4), in that
hoth draw links betwecn brain activations and self-rcgulatory ahility. Ochsner and Gross,
howcver, go over in dt•t;\1) the reciprocal rclatinns a:rnong ncural activity, emotion rcgula-
llon strategies, situation.1l features triggcring or impcding a Hect rcgulation, and the com-
bmcd psychological 1nd physiological con;cqucnccs of thcse vanous influcnces.

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6 An Jntroductiun
Part 111 is one of rhe strongest and most integra red among the approaches and do-
mains in which these authors place their work. Chaptcr 13 by Eisenherg, Smith,
Sadovsky, and Spinrad fearures their rescarch on effortful control in the contcxt uf age
and environment. This model has been particularly useful in portraying children 's
effortful control abilities as having mcaningful consequcnces for their social devclopment.
Rueda, Posner, and Rothbart's devclopmental approach (Chapter 14) is to focus on
anothcr domain of self-control among young people: attentional control. Their chapter,
a long with a few others in this vol u me, brought to our attention (no pun intended) the vi-
tal importance of allocating attention in the pursuit of intentions. Rueda and colleagues'
contribution gives hope to the qucstion of whether self-regulation can be assisted in de-
velopment (see Mischcl & Ayduk, Chapter 6).
The developmental implications of self-regulation failure are excmplified in
15 hy Barkley on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Barklcy's thesis ahout
executive functioning and metacognition in the role of ADHD revolves around the notion
rhat these processes aid in the formation of bonds with other members of one's social
group. This social-evolutionary approach takes the concept of ADHD and links it with
hroader, higher order constructs such as attention and social control.
Social bonds are also highlighted in the work by Calkins (Chapter 16), who under-
scores the operation of attachment-related processes in development. Calkins posits that
attachment processes, which are outgrowths oi early interactions with parents, serve
emotion regulation functions. Attachmcnt security in Calkins's model is 5hown to have
autonomic and physiological implications, as well as rcpercussions for emotion regula-
tino, and is particularly importan! in dyadic rclationships.
In Chapter 17, McCabe, Cunnington, and Brooks-Gunn also focus on young chil-
dren's developmcnt, this time from the perspcctive of a bioecological moJel. In this ap-
proach, sclf-regulation is seen as resulting from the person x environmcnt interaction,
which is examined from macro- and microlevel contexts. On the lattcr, MeCa he ancl col-
leagucs note some cultural differences in self-regulation development (e.g., bctwcen Chi-
nese and U.S. children) and include this aspect of investigation as heing on thc forcfront
of future ehild regulation research.
Rothbart, Ellis, and Posner (Chapter 18) conclude our section on 9evclopment.
Their thcsis involves the idea of temperament as a personality construct that is bascd in
reactivity '(or,set, intensity, and duration of emotional, motor, and attentional reactions)
and is intimately connectcd with self-regulation. Self-regulation is dcfined by Rothb<lrt et
al. as modifications of reactivity, of which fear-based inhibitions that control behavior
play a large part. This sophisticated model integra tes m¡my of the di verse aspects of child-
hood self-regulation and provides a nice encapsulation of the research in this burgeoning
are a.
Part IV rcpresents an up-and-coming research area. The definition of "self-regula-
tion" is expanded in these chapters to include social variables as inputs and outputs of
regulatory hehaviors. Lcar}, in Chapter i 9 on the sociometer modcl, posits that the sdf
monitors for signs of interpersonal cxclusion and alters behaviors if one appcars to he
hcaded toward rejection. Although the sociometer has been largely connected to the con-
cept of self-esteem, it fits within the rubric of self-regulation just as well, because it dis-
plays thc dynamism of the self in response to conscious and nonconscious enes of goal
íailure, Chapter 20 by Vohs and Ciarocco is also about the interplay between
tion anJ social functioning, but instcad of focusing on one topic, they providc a general
overview of thc myriad imcrpersonal phcnomcna that havc self-regulatory functions at
An Jntroduction 7
their core. Their model shows· how interpersonal functioning can be affectcd by previous
self-regulatory endeavors and can also affcct subsequent acts of self-control.
Part V begins with a Ji-cussion of the role of gendt·r in sclf-rcgulation. In Chaptcr
21, Nolen-Hoeksema and Corte review gender differences in emotion c5pc-
cially by way of rumination. Rumination tendencies are much stronger and more preva-
len! among women than among men, which thesc authors helicve may hdp explain
women's higher rates of depression and anxiety. Turning to a completely diffcrent indi-
vidual differcnce, MacCoon, Wallace, and Newman (Chaptcr 22) d1scuss psychopathic
individuals' self-regulatory capacities, using cognitive and neurological evidencc ro in-
form their response modulation hypothesis, in which self-rcgulation failures follow from
failures to shift attcntion to nondominant cues that indicare the need for the sclf ro alter
its momentary responses.
We conclude the volume with Part VI, six chapters that illustrate the vast and serious
ramifications of self-regulation failure. In Chapter 23, Sayettc bcgins this section with .¡
review of the literature on addiction. He parses problcms with self-rcgubtion that lcad or
contribute to drug problems as being due to either underregulation 01 misreguhllion. Thc
former refers toa failure to exert control over oncself, whereas the lattcr rcfers to cxcrt-
ing control, but control that leads toan undcsirable response. He focuscs on smoking as a
particubrly good exemplar of addictive processes, and reviews the lahoratory ·and natu-
ralistic studies on smoking addiction and control proccsses.
Hull and Slone (Chapter 24) discuss a specific drug, alcohol, and ib rclation ro sclf-
regulation. They contcnd that alcohol impairs thc cognitive operations nccdcd for effcc-
tivc sclf-regulation. According to them, pcople who are low in sclf-control capacity are
more hkcly to have alcohol use and abuse prohlcms, which is onc way that alcohol is
problcmatic for self-control. A second way is that people often indulge in alcohol a
method of controlling their social, emotional, or othcr psychol•>gical difficulties. Thcir
ideas about speciiic mechanisms suggest avenues for futurc rescarch.
Eating may perhaps he one of the most commonplacc-yet lt·ast well-understood-
self-regulated domains; at last count, over 50% of Americans are ovcrwcight (which
prornptcd comedian Jay Leno to note that it is now "normal" to he overweight). Thcrc-
fore, understanding the self-regulation of eating is increasingly impcrative, and it is a
top1c that Herman and Polivy (Chapter 25) have tackled for their entirc careers Re-
viewingevidence on dieting, social norms, the effects of othcrs on food intakc, and
as emot1on control, these eminent researchers show that although the self-rcgulation
of eatmg may be complex, tt need not be convoluted. Herman and Polivy's experi-
mental des1gns reveal the how far we have come in understanding this pcrnicious regula-
tlon prohlcm.
_ Personal spending is another domain in which people have grcat difficulty trying to
curb the1r tmpulses. In Chapter 26, Fahcr and Vohs undertake thc issue of financia! con-
trol and examine threc basic patterns of (mis)regulated spcnding: self-gifting, impulsivc
spendmg, and compulsive spending. Thc thrce concepts are rci.Jtcd to one anothcr
prohkms with self-control, but each al so rcfb:ts the influcnce of other factors that ·are re-
vealed by othcr theories of psychology and cconomics. for instance, Fabcr anJ Vohs
POsJt that compulsive spending results from proccsses rclatcd to self-regulation failurc, as
well as escape from the self. Their review shcds light on the idea of fin.wciJI self-rcgula-
t•on as. a conscquential arena in which to examine rcgulatory proccsscs.
WJcdcrman's chapter on sexuality is an cyc-opcner, pcrh.1ps mostiY hecausc it illumi-
nates a massive gap in the study of self-regul.uion. Wicdcrman (Chaptcr 27) astutely
-;:;-. .....
An Introduction
notes rhar alrhough socieries throughour rhe world and across eras have attempred ro
control rheir peoples' sexualiry, research on rhe influencc of personal seli-regulation stan-
dards has been l<!rgely ovcrlooked. Given thar scxualiry is one of rhc most basic aspccts of
human interaction and also (not coincidenrally) a primary domain in which relarionships
can fall apart, Wiederman's picas for more rcsearch should nor go unhcard.
Our last chapter in rhis volume is on rhe link hetween self-rcgularion and criminality.
Hirschi's contribution (Chapter 28) lays out his and Gottfredson's theory (see Gottfred-
son & Hirschi, 1990) of crime and self-conrrol. Their iniluenrial model places self-control
abiliries at rhe hearr of acts of crime, and posits rhat virrually all criminal acrs are linked
rogerher by rhe fact thar rhey provide shorr-rerm benefirs but incur long-term costs.
Hirschi demonsrrares rhe uriliry -oí rhis model in predicting and describing criminal
behavior and smarrly shows how much variabiliry in criminal acts can be accounred for
by one basic interna! proccss (self-conrrol) ...
In summary, we havc collectcd a stcllár group of self-regulation researchers, who
have la id out rhe underlying processes, cognirive and physical opcrations, and emotional
of self-regularion; demonstratcd rhe developmental trajectories of self-
rcgularion and efforrful control processes, and rhcir associared outcomcs; highlighred rhe
far-ranging effecrs of sclf-rcgulation in terms of rciat10nships, addictions, aud
consumption; and have shown how people differ in their basic abilities and srylcs of self-
conrrol. We are enormously pleased with the amount ami sophistication of information
on how self-regulation works, and we are parricularly excited to have much of it Itere in
this volume.
Reseárch on self-regulation has made more progress in some arcas than in others (which
is probably true of any field or topic). We can briefly highlight some arcas in which prog-
ress has been rapid and orhers in which ir has lagged.
Applied research has in sorne cases led the way. Research on control of earing, drink-
ing, smoking, and similar ropics has long had ro recognize the importance,of self-regula-
tion and the sources of self-regularion failure. Basic researchers have builr onto this sub-
sranrial amounr of informarion and have begun to develop more elaborare and general
rheoretical models. Hcnce, one priority in the coming years is that rhe basic research
models go back to the applied senings for tesring.
Ar rhe core of any scientific enterprise is rhe efforr to understand rhe causal sequence
of processes thar produce any effecr, and in self-regulation, rhe dcvelopment of such
microlevel theories seems crucial and promising. Until rl'cently, self-regulation was irself
considered an explanation for other processes and behavioral outcomes, bur now, the
field is starring ro rake thc next step and unpack how selt-regularion succeeds and fails in
terms of rhe" inrrapsychic events.
Emotion plays mulriple roles in self-regularion. This handbook does not ha ve a sepa-
rare section devoted to emorion, partly beca use emotion ,up· in different ways in
each of rhe orher sections. Emotion conrributes rtílgh•r\fY' r'i>"bbrh and failures of
self-reguh¡tion. How tbis seemingly contradictory, paradoxical pattern can be true is a
fascinaring challenge for further work, though, already, there havc been importanr sreps
in rhar direcrion. ·
Nof surprisingly, most models of self-regulation ha ve focused on what happens in-
side rhc individual psyche. The past few years have, however, seen a rising recognirion
An Introduction 9
that interpersonal relarions affecr, and are affecred by, self-regulation. Thc interpersonal
dimension of self-regulation is srill underapprcciared and seems likely to att;acr furrher
study in thc coming years.
The 1990s was rhe "decade of rhe hrain" and in fact was a grear stimulus for rhe
study of phrsiological and ncurological processcs. Researchers bave scan:cly bcgun to
map out the brain processes and other physiolo¡;ical detcrminants of self-rcgulatory pro-
cesscs. Ir seems a safe ber rhar rhe growing ficld of social-cognitive neuroscience will de-
vote increasing effort to understanding rhese aspects of self-regulation ..
M ( t f ,, devclopmenr is rhc bcginning recognirion rhar peoplc must ofren
]ugglc tnt.fuple goals and other sclf-regulatory proJccts samulraneously. A givcn S;nurday
afrcrnoon can be devored ro work, repairing relarionship damagc, or excrcising, all of
which involve self-regulation, yet cannot all be done simultaneously. Morcovcr, if rhe ca-
paciry for self-regularion is limited, rhen pcople must operare with a shifring systcm of
prioriries as ro whar behaviors are mosr urgent ro regulare.
lntegration across subdisciplines is an irnportant, promising arca, alrhough rhe struc-
tures of acadcm;c life make such integration difficult and uncertain. Developmental psy-
chologists believe rhar rhey were the firsr to recognize rhc importancc of sclf-regularion,
in their srudies oí how children bccome sociahzed amllearn ro control rhcmselves for rhe
sake of social participation. Neuroscientisrs similarly believc that they lcd rhc way in their
studies of executive function. Clinical psychologisrs, espccially those who deal with ad-
dicrion and earing disorders, recognized of self-regulation long be-
fo re laborarory rescarchcrs had any mklang of how ro study a t. Socaal psychologasrs, espe-
cial! y tbose imercsred in rhe self, claim priority insofar as rhcy alone have rhc general
understanding of how self-regulation fits into rhe operarion of rhe self. Personality psy-
chologists also poinr out rhar rhey have long recognized indiv;dual diffcrences in ego
strengrh and conscientiousness. Finally, cognitive have for dt·c,adcs exam-
ined how limited resources in attcntion are allocated and, indeed, how processes of mera-
cognition ·regula te cognitive performance.
All rhese claims are valid, and all areas have somerhing ro offer. lt is our hope rhar
this volume contribures ro such inregrative understanding and cross-fcrtilization of ideas.
In any case, the next decade promises ro be an exciting and productive one in the under-
standing of self-regulation!
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