Need a study break to refresh? Maybe not, say Stanford researchers

“If you think of willpower as something that’s biologically limited, you’re more likely to be tired when you perform a difficult task,” said Veronika Job, the paper’s lead author. “But if you think of willpower as something that is not easily depleted, you can go on and on.”

Job, who conducted her research at Stanford and is now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Zurich, co-authored the paper with Stanford psychology Professor Carol Dweck and Assistant Professor Greg Walton.

The researchers designed a series of four experiments to test and manipulate Stanford students’ beliefs about willpower. After a tiring task, those who believed or were led to believe that willpower is a limited resource performed worse on standard concentration tests than those who thought of willpower as something they had more control over.

They also found that leading up to final exam week, students who bought into the limited resource theory ate junk food 24 percent more often than those who believed they had more control in resisting temptation. The limited resource believers also procrastinated 35 percent more than the other group.

“The theory that willpower is a limited resource is interesting, but it has had unintended consequences,”

Guess I’ve got to start working harder…

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