Abstract thinking may help boost self-control
The way people subjectively understand or construe events can influence self-control, a new study has revealed.
Research from psychological science suggests that categorizing things abstractly into broad categories (called high-level construal) allows us to psychologically distance ourselves from the pushes and pulls of the immediate moment.
This, in turn, makes us more sensitive to the broad implications of our behaviour and leads us to show greater consistency between our values and our behaviour.
For example, a dieter choosing based on immediately apparent differences between the choices (low-level construal) might focus on taste and opt for a candy bar over an apple.
A dieter choosing on the basis of high-level construal, however, might view the choice in the broader terms of a choice between weight loss and hedonism, and opt for the apple.
Researchers, Kentaro Fujita and Jessica Carnevale of The Ohio State University, drew together many strands of research to provide evidence for the role of these different kinds of construal in decisions involving self-control.
They argue that research investigating the link between construal level and self-control is important and timely as some of the most pressing societal problems - including obesity, addiction, debt - are associated with failures of self-control.
The study was recently published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.