With Matthew Linzel. In The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 30 (2020): pp. 89-100

Trait self-control (TSC) is typically conceptualized as the ability to resist immediately gratifying (but problematic) impulses, and it predicts many positive life outcomes. Recent research, however, suggests that the benefits of TSC may operate not through effortful resistance of temptations, but rather, via good desires and habits. This “desires and habits” hypothesis has been supported in several goal-related domains, such as healthy eating, exercise, and homework. In the present study, we assessed if the hypothesis would be supported in the domain of religious goals. Participants included 166 committed Christians, who identified one religious practice (e.g., prayer) in which they wished to engage on a daily basis. On five days over a two-week period, participants reported experiences regarding desire, temptation resistance, and completion of their religious practice. As hypothesized, TSC predicted the successful completion of religious practices, and this relation was accounted for by good desires and habitual performance of the practice, but not by temptation resistance. Results were consistent with the hypothesis that “self-controlled” individuals may attain their goals not because they stop themselves from giving into temptations, but because their desires and habits are such that they experience fewer temptations to stray from their goals in the first place. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

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Dr. Marie Good

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International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

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