Taking stock of self-control: A meta-analysis of how trait self-control relates to a wide range of behaviors

Denise T D de Ridder, Gerty Lensvelt-Mulders, Catrin Finkenauer, F Marijn Stok, Roy F Baumeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Given assertions of the theoretical, empirical, and practical importance of self-control, this meta-analytic study sought to review evidence concerning the relationship between dispositional self-control and behavior. The authors provide a brief overview over prominent theories of self-control, identifying implicit assumptions surrounding the effects of self-control that warrant empirical testing. They report the results of a meta-analysis of 102 studies (total N = 32,648) investigating the behavioral effects of self-control using the Self-Control Scale, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, and the Low Self-Control Scale. A small to medium positive effect of self-control on behavior was found for the three scales. Only the Self-Control Scale allowed for a fine-grained analysis of conceptual moderators of the self-control behavior relation. Specifically, self-control (measured by the Self-Control Scale) related similarly to the performance of desired behaviors and the inhibition of undesired behaviors, but its effects varied dramatically across life domains (e.g., achievement, adjustment). In addition, the associations between self-control and behavior were significantly stronger for automatic (as compared to controlled) behavior and for imagined (as compared to actual) behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-99
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Achievement
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Internal-External Control
  • Motivation
  • Journal Article
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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