Steven Pinker is an American scientist who was gained renown by explaining how to the mind works to lay people in an accessible and insight full way. He has done this through his books and presentations
In his recent review of the book “Willpower” he summarizes some of the state-of-the-art thinking about willpower.
- Since the 1960s the recorded use of the phrase “Willpower” has fallen dramatically. Willpower as a concept is out of favor. Willpower is a concept that would be presented to someone living in the 1930s far more than it’s presented to someone living today.
- Willpower has been shown to be very important. The classic and often cited work done by Walter Mischel demonstrated that on average people who could delay gratification at age 4 went on to have much more satisfied and successful lives than those who could not delay gratification. (In on particular experiment a 4 year olds were given the choice of one marshmallow now or a wait of 15 minutes for two marshmallows.)
- The idea of “fighting” to stay on the right path, the idea that willpower is a “force”, seems to have some validity.
- Studies have shown that willpower can be fatigued just like a physical muscle. After your willpower has been under heavy strain it weakens.
Sugar was seen to provide a short term boost to willpower, just as it provides a short term energy boost to the physical body.
Willpower can be stregnthened by exercise. Studies were performed in which people on a regimen on recording their habits or regular exercise were found to have increased their willpower endurance, their willpower fatigued less easily that before their regimen.
The book suggest building up willpower with small regular exercises.
You can check out the review here.