Researchers study effects of chocolate chip deprivation
by Susan Griffith
The sugary smell of melted butter and baked cookie dough mingles in the
air with the rich aroma of hot chocolate as the latest batch of
cookies comes out of the oven.
How much strength does it take to resist eating a freshly baked
chocolate chip cookie?
In a self-control study based on 67 undergraduate psychology students,
Ellen Bratslavsky and Roy Baumeister found that students who were asked
refrain from eating chocolate chip cookies had less strength to complete
a subsequent mental task.
Students who were allowed to eat the cookies or were offered no cookies
at all performed at twice the level of those who were asked to resist.
Bratslavsky and Baumeister presented their findings on "Self Control
Fatigue After Resisting Temptation: The Cost of Not Eating Chocolate" at
American Psychological Association meeting in Toronto in August.
Bratslavsky, a graduate student working on her master's thesis, placed
the cookies in front the students in the first group, but instead of
a cookie, she asked them to chew on a radish until she was ready to
serve the cookies.
Through a one-way mirror, Bratslavsky observed some students squirming
in their chairs as the tantalizing aroma permeated the room. Others took
nibbles at the radish, and some even picked up the cookies and stared
longingly at the forbidden treat.
Then comes the long-awaited moment when the students think they may have
a cookie. Instead, the students are given a subsequent task of
completing an unsolvable puzzle while waiting an additional 15 minutes.
The researchers found that those asked to refrain from eating the
cookies made less than half the attempts to solve the puzzle before
giving up than
those who were allowed to eat the cookies immediately or were offered
none at all.
The lesson learned here is that self-control is a limited resource.
"When people exert self-control -- such as when under stress or
pressure, or when
dieting or coping -- self-control may fail in other spheres," says
Baumeister, professor of psychology.
"Resisting temptation is often morally necessary, but it has a
psychological cost," adds Bratslavsky.
As a well holds only so much water, Baumeister says an individual only
has so much strength in self-control. Instead of taking on several
one's life that require self-control, he suggests working on one at a
time, or the individual may face failure.
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