Lacking self-control is at the roots of many of our troubles: eating the entire tub of ice cream, watching TV instead of studying, quitting school because it was too hard etc etc. We would love to have more of it. The new study found that gargling some sugared water might help with it.
What is self-control?
Until recently, scientists believed that self control drops when we lack resources or energy. As we express our self-control, we use all our energy for it, so we do not have enough for any more self-control until we replenish energy. But, a number of latest studies found that it is more complicated than that. A range of factors come into play: cognitive, metabolic, affective or motivational. Our self-control can be undermined by a number of different causes.
Scientists are very interested in finding the way to boost self-control as a way to deal with a number of serious society problems that are affected by the lack of self-control such as obesity and drug addiction.
A group of researchers from the University of Georgia worked with fifty-one students to find out what affects our self-control. The participants were given two tests, the first one being very difficult. Before doing the second test, half of the participants were given sugar water to rinse their mouth with.
The goal of the second test, called Stroop test, was to check the ability for self-control. The researchers found that the participants who were given water with sugar were much more successful than those who were given water with artificial sweetener.
Not the energy
What the researchers found was that it was not the energy from glucose in sugar that caused increased self-control, but the stimulation of sensors in the tongue. The sensors send signals to the brain centers responsible for motivation to pay attention. It made self-related goals to come to mind. Sugar doesn’t just boost up energy, but your personal investment in the task, consequently boosting your self-control.
People who are trying to lose weight should not expect that loading up on sweets will help them lose weight. Just the opposite. But, you might try it when having to study and you would much rather read a novel of watch a movie.