Seff-Control and Health Behavior
A. W. Logue Baruch College, City University of New York
The media bombard us with descriptions of how we should behave in order to become or remain healthy. Magazines, television reports, and newspapers all tell us about how we can avoid cancer and infectious disease, protect ourselves from accidents, and cure our addictions. Yet, despite this knowledge, many people routinely engage in unhealthy behaviors. For example, even though it is firmly established that cigarette smoking contributes significantly to lung cancer and heart disease, and there are warnings everywhere, including on cigarette packages, approximately 60 million Americans still use tobacco ( Holloway, 1991).
This chapter describes a model of self-control, originally developed in the laboratory, that can help us to understand, predict, and possibly modify healthy and unhealthy behaviors. The chapter begins with a description of the model and related basic laboratory findings. Then it applies this model to different types of health behaviors. The overall goal of the chapter is to show how laboratory research can provide new ways of conceptualizing health behaviors, ways that may assist us in promoting good health.
Self-control can be defined as choice of a more delayed, but ultimately more valued, outcome over a less delayed, but less valued, outcome. Impulsiveness can be defined as the opposite (Fig. 7.1). Such choices also have been