The substitutability of external control and self-control

Ayelet Fishbach, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three experiments offered participants the opportunity to undertake an activity that had long-term benefits but either small or large short-term costs. The experiments investigated how self-control efforts to undertake the activity are affected by real or primed externally imposed controls. Two forms of self-control were assessed: bolstering the value of the offered activity and self-imposed penalties for failure to undertake it. The results showed that greater short-term costs elicited more self-control efforts when externally imposed controls were absent and less self-control efforts when externally imposed controls were present. Both externally imposed controls and self-control efforts prevented short-term costs from affecting participants' intention to undertake the activity. The results were interpreted as suggesting that externally imposed control and self-control are substitutable means for pursuing activities with long-term benefits and short-term costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-270
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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