Implicit versus explicit measures of self-concept of self-control and their differential predictive power for spontaneous trait-relevant behaviors

Rafaële J C Huntjens, Marleen M Rijkeboer, Andrej Krakau, Peter J de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Low trait self-control constitutes a core criterion in various psychiatric disorders. Personality traits such as low self-control are mostly indexed by self-report measures. However, several theorists emphasized the importance of differentiating between explicit and implicit indices of personality traits, Therefore, the present study examined the unique predictive validity of an implicit measure of trait self-control for spontaneous dysfunctional behavior.

METHODS: As a measure of implicit trait self-control, we used an irrelevant feature task: a speeded reaction time task comprising a task-relevant stimulus feature (i.e., capital vs. lower case letter type) and a task-irrelevant feature (high vs. low self-control word type). The irrelevant feature had to be ignored, while participants (n = 34) responded to the relevant stimulus feature. However, their response was either congruent or incongruent with the irrelevant stimulus feature, resulting in facilitated or deteriorated task performance. As indicators of trait-related spontaneous dysfunctional behavior, we included indices of frustration tolerance and the preference for short-term reward over meeting long-term goals. We also included two explicit measures of trait self-control: a self-report questionnaire and an explicit self-relevance rating of the implicit task stimuli.

RESULTS: Specifically the implicit measure of trait self-control showed predictive validity for the target self-control behaviors.

LIMITATIONS: The predictive validity of implicit measures of personality traits requires further study in larger, non-student samples.

CONCLUSIONS: As predicted, the implicit measure of trait self-control showed superior predictive power for spontaneous trait-related behavior. This finding points to the relevance of complementing the routinely used self-report measures with implicit measures of trait self-control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Adult
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Personality
  • Personality Inventory
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Questionnaires
  • Reaction Time
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Concept
  • Self Report
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult


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