5 February 2018

Launch of the Handbook of Self-Control in Health and Wellbeing

On January 19th the book ‘Handbook of Self-Control in Health and Wellbeing’ – edited by Denise de Ridder, Marieke Adriaanse and Kentaro Fujita – was presented in the Winkel van Sinkel in Utrecht. During the launch, a panel of four distinguished authors of the handbook discussed the possibilities for the improvement of self-control in the general population, after which the book was presented to Will Tiemeijer from the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy.

Self-control has gained much attention in the past years, but a book entirely dedicated to this important topic was still lacking. However, it’s about time that this book would occur, since new research suggests that the classical definition of self-control – simply inhibiting our immediate impulses – isn’t the full story. This was also agreed upon by the four panel members during the book launch discussion, who seemed to move away from this definition towards a more integral definition of self-control. For instance, Veronika Job emphasized the inclusion of different self-regulation strategies for the improvement of self-control, because exerting self-control to inhibit impulses is the last resort.

The main question of the panel discussion, however, was whether self-control can be trained. The four panel members reviewed this question critically. Veronika Job considered the training of self-control very promising, but called for more studies into the transferability of self-control training in one domain to other domains. The entire idea of self-control training was doubted by Bob Fennis for individuals without any motivation, while this demotivated group might need it the most. Also, we often assume that everybody has goals (for example to improve oneself), but it is unclear whether this is really the case.

With respect to the goal of the self-control research field, Jaap Denissen questioned whether self-control improvement should be our target, since there might possibly be an evolutionary advantage of low self-control. Finally, Malte Friese stated that self-control training has great potential, but that we should be cautious with immediately conveying this to the general public, because we are still in such an early research stage.

This point of Malte Friese was duly noted by Will Tiemeijer from the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (in Dutch: Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid, WRR) who received the first copy of the handbook of self-control. He ensured that the handbook of self-control will be read amongst policy makers and politicians because self-control is a prominent topic that the WRR will keep paying attention to. Moreover, he encouraged self-control researchers continue with their studies, since a better understanding of self-control is needed as a foundation of policy development.

Do you want to know more? The book can be ordered here.