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Self-Control Just Might Be Contagious
Date:1/18/2010

People you spend time with affect your behavior, for good or bad, research finds

MONDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- If you spend time with people who exhibit self-control -- resisting the death-by-chocolate cake after a restaurant meal, for instance -- you can expect your own self-control to be pretty good, too, according to new research.

But the opposite seems true, too: Spending time with people with less-than-ideal self-control will influence you negatively, the researchers found.

"Before, we knew people tended to hang out with other people who were like themselves," said Michelle vanDellen, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, who led the research, which was published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"But in these studies, we actually show there is a direct effect of our friends' behavior on our own behavior," vanDellen said. The findings apply, she said, "not only to the people we [choose to] hang out with, but those we are forced to hang out with," such as co-workers on the job.

The conclusions came from five studies conducted by vanDellen and her co-author, Rick Hoyle of Duke University.

The best study, she said, and the most fun, involved 71 participants and two plates of food -- one stacked with carrot sticks, the other with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. The participants either watched someone exhibit self-control by eating the carrots and leaving the cookies, or vice versa. Later, the participants took self-control tests (not involving cookies and carrots). Those who had watched a person eat cookies did less well than those who had watched someone eat carrots.

In another study, the researchers found that 36 participants randomly assigned to think of a friend with good self-control persisted longer on a handgrip test used to measure self-control than did the participants assigned to think about a f
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