Article

Self-Control Without a "Self"? Common Self-Control Processes in Humans and Dogs

Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 04/2010; 21(4):534-8. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610364968
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Self-control constitutes a fundamental aspect of human nature. Yet there is reason to believe that human and nonhuman self-control processes rely on the same biological mechanism--the availability of glucose in the bloodstream. Two experiments tested this hypothesis by examining the effect of available blood glucose on the ability of dogs to exert self-control. Experiment 1 showed that dogs that were required to exert self-control on an initial task persisted for a shorter time on a subsequent unsolvable task than did dogs that were not previously required to exert self-control. Experiment 2 demonstrated that providing dogs with a boost of glucose eliminated the negative effects of prior exertion of self-control on persistence; this finding parallels a similar effect in humans. These findings provide the first evidence that self-control relies on the same limited energy resource among humans and nonhumans. Our results have broad implications for the study of self-control processes in human and nonhuman species.

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