Egotism depletes self-control

Self-control is fundamental to survival. This is true not only in a social sense (you just can’t tell your employer what you really think of their hairstyle) but also in a practical sense (if you spent all your money on that Ferrari you might never save enough for retirement). Of course, not everyone has appropriate amounts of self-control, and a new study has shown that there are two key elements to building self-control.

We already know that self-control is regulated by mechanisms in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. In this new study, researchers also tested a region at the side and towards the back of the brain called the temporo-parietal junction.

In the study, subjects were asked to choose between a smaller reward given immediately and a larger reward given in the future, as well as between a reward that only benefitted themselves and a reward that benefitted them less but also helped another person. The researchers use non-invasive brain stimulation to disrupt the temporo-parietal junction and, when they did, people were more likely to make choices that were more impulsive (going for the immediate reward) and more selfish (choosing the option that would benefit only themselves). On these occasions, the subjects were also less able to take the perspective of the other person.

So it seems that the brain mechanism for overcoming egocentricity also enhances self-control and people who lack self-control may also be unable to think beyond themselves, perhaps indicating temporo-parietal junction issues. If you think real hard, you might be able to think of an example of this phenomenon being played out on the world stage right now.

Source: Science Advances

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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