Trying to resist temptation? Then avoid the situation.

Step one: Proactively avoid situations that could challenge self-control

People who are better at resisting temptation purposely avoid putting themselves into situations where they could lose self-control, Ann Lukits writes in the Wall Street Journal.

For the study, which appears in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers at Florida State University conducted an experiment with 38 students ages 18 to 23. The participants rated their self-control on a 13-point scale. Half of the students were categorized as having above-average self-control, while the other half were categorized as below average.

Also from EAB Daily Briefing: Three ways to improve self-control

The students were told they would be completing an anagram and could either solve the puzzle in a noisy student lounge immediately or wait for a period of time and complete the anagram in a quiet lab. Of the students who rated themselves with above-average self-control, 53% chose to wait for the lab and 47% chose to use the lounge. By comparison, 37% of those with below-average self-control chose the lab and 63% chose the lounge.

In a separate experiment, 53 participants ages 18 to 60 were asked to rate themselves in self-control on a 13-point scale and to complete and online intelligence assessment. They were told they could take the test in one of two versions—a standard black-and-white format or a stylized version with artwork on the side panels, which would change periodically and could become distracting.

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Sixty-seven percent of respondents with high self-control chose the standard version, compared with 33% who selected the stylized one. By comparison, 43% of individuals with low self-control chose the standard version and 57% picked the stylized version.

According to researchers, the study suggests that people with higher self-control participate in "proactive avoidance" and do not put themselves in situations in which they might experience temptation (Lukits, Wall Street Journal, 11/24).

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