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The University of Southampton
Psychology

Research project: Reward Responsivity Hypothesis of Self-control

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Inspired by controversies and challenges to the resource model, my colleagues and I recently proposed a reward responsivity hypothesis of self-control.

Inspired by controversies and challenges to the resource model, my colleagues and I recently proposed a reward responsivity hypothesis of self-control. This hypothesis proposes that, irrespective of self-control success, the act of exercising self-control is aversive and engenders negative affect. In order to countermand this discomfort, reward seeking behaviour may be amplified after bouts of self-control, to bring individuals back to a mildly positive baseline state. In contrast, the resource model does not explicitly predict that exercising self-control increases subsequent reward-related impulse strength. However, several studies inspired by the resource model have found evidence that exercising self-control increases subsequent reward-seeking behaviour, including eating, spending, and sexual behaviour. Indeed, these behavioural outcomes could be due to a reduction in the capacity for control (as others initially assumed) or due to increases in reward responsivity and approach motivation (as we propose).

This program of research systematically investigates the reward responsivity hypothesis using self-report, behavioural, and biological measures.

Principal investigator: Dr Nick Kelley

Related research groups

Centre for Research on Self and Identity (CRSI)

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