The Merest Thought of Money Replenishes Self-Control

Money pig
“Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” ~Seneca

The Roman philosopher Seneca knew the benefits of self-control, as do modern psychologists:

“…self-control is strongly associated with what we label success: higher self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, better emotional responses and, perhaps surprisingly, few drawbacks at even very high levels of self-control (Tangney et al., 2004). (From: How to Improve Your Self Control)

I’ve discussed many strategies for improving self-control in: Top 10 Self-Control Strategies.

But in a new study they’ve found that the merest suggestion of money is enough to help people recover from the ego-depletion effect (i.e. when your self-control ‘muscle’ is tired from too much exertion):

“Across two experiments using varied operationalizations of self-control, participants completed an initial task that depleted self-control resources or not, were then reminded of money or neutral concepts, and finally, completed a second task requiring self-control. In both experiments, among depleted participants, those reminded of money performed better on the second self-control task than those reminded of neutral concepts.” (Boucher & Kofos, 2012)

Image credit: Eric Gjerde

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 18 June 2012

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Images: Creative Commons License