Increasing Self-Control in College Students

Gordon S. Lee, The College of Wooster


Due to the need for high levels of self-control necessary in an academic environment, it makes sense that college students would want to improve their levels of self-control. The present experiment investigated the possibility of improving self-control in a one-week period either through regular exercise (squeezing a handgrip every day for a week) or through a healthier diet (resisting sweets for a week). It was hypothesized that both experimental groups would show improvement in self-control. A Stroop task was given to N = 52 college students at the beginning and end of the one-week testing period, and self-control was measured in terms of reaction time and number of errors committed. The results found that there was no significant difference between the experimental groups, both groups improved their reaction time, and thus showed an increase in self-control. There was no difference in the number of errors committed between the first and second testing times. This study provides support for the strength model of self-control, and suggests that even a week of regular, healthy behavior leads to an increased ability for self-regulation. Future studies could investigate the role of social support and motivation in improving self-control in a college environment.