Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications

Article excerpt

ROYF. BAUMEISTER and KATHLEEN D. VOHS (Eds.) Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications New York: Guilford Press, 2004, 590 pages (ISBN 1-57230-991-1, US$70.00 Hardcover)

The topic of self-regulation is currently receiving increasing attention in various areas of psychological research. Self-regulation is a concept that crosses domains, as a few examples will illustrate. Many psychological disorders such as depression, AttentionDeficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Conduct Disorder, as well as addictions and risk-taking behaviour are believed to involve some kind of failure of self-regulation. The regulation of emotion and affect, executive function (i.e., cognitive control processes that have been linked to the prefrontal cortex), and motivational processes are viewed as part and parcel of self-regulanion. Last, hut not least, self-regulation has a developmental as well as a physiological dimension. For these reasons, self-regulation is, as the editors of the Handbook of Self-Regulation remark, "simply too large, diverse, and important a topic not to have a handbook" (ix).

Unfortunately, self-regulation has remained an illdefined and elusive concept. Neither is there an agreed upon definition of self-regulation, nor is it clear precisely how self-regulation is related to emotion regulation and executive function. The editors of the Handbook define self-regulation as "processes by which the human psyche exercises control over its functions, states, and inner processes" (p. 1). This broad definition serves as the umbrella under which multiple areas of self-regulation research are presented.

The book comprises six sections, which progress from consideration of basic processes, to applications of theory and research to "everyday problems" of selfregulation. The first section is devoted to basic processes and systems underlying regulation, including discussion of feedback loops, neural systems, and cognitive-affective processing. The second section addresses cognitive, neural, and physiological aspects of self-regulation, including consideration of nonconscious self-regulation and a social cognitive neuroscience approach to self-regulation. The third section addresses the development of self-regulation, including consideration of effortful control, attention, attachment, temperament, context, and a social-evolutionary approach to self-regulation. The fourth section considers interpersonal aspects of self-regulation, and the fifth section considers individual differences (such as gender) in self-regulatory abilities. The final section is devoted to what the editors term "everyday problems with self-regulation," and addresses the relationship between self-regulation and addiction, eating, purchasing behaviour, sexual behaviour, and crime.

As a reflection of the state of the field, certain sections are more robust and integrated than others. For example, the section on the development of self-regulation presents as an integrated body of work, while other sections, such as the section on interpersonal aspects of self-regulation, represent what the editors term "up-and-coming" (p. 6) research areas, and are correspondingly less well integrated but will likely provide important direction for future research.

Each of the 28 individual chapters is well organized and well written. The contributors to the individual chapters were invited by the editors to present their approach to the study of self-regulation. As a result, the Handbook comprises a variety of different perspectives on self-regulation. Each chapter is selfcontained, allowing one to select and focus on topics of interest. …