The Neurobiology of Self-Control:
Individual Differences and Hints at How We Might Facilitate it
Todd Hare, University of Zurich
Many decisions involve a trade off between an immediate, or at least relatively proximate, reward and long-term outcomes with greater overall benefit. Examples of such decisions include: dietary selections, financial savings and investment plans, continuing education, and drug or alcohol abuse. Choosing to forgo a desired reward in favor of an ultimately superior outcome in the long run is often referred to as using self-control. Individuals vary greatly in the degree to which they exercise self-control in different choice situations. I will discuss a series of studies that highlight differences in brain function between successful and unsuccessful self-control decisions. In addition, I will discuss data that suggest possible strategies for facilitating optimal decision-making by means of simple attention cues and the underlying neural basis of these effects.
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