Another study involved assigning 42 people to list the names of friends with good and bad self-control. As the participants took a test designed to measure self-control, a name was flashed very briefly on a computer screen. Those who saw the name of a friend with good self-control did better on the test than those who saw the name of a friend with poor self-control.
The researchers also assigned 112 people to write about a friend with good self-control, a friend with bad self-control or an outgoing friend. Those who wrote about a friend with good self-control did best on a test of self-control, those who wrote about a friend with bad self-control did worst and those who wrote about an outgoing friend scored in between the others.
In the fifth study, 117 people were randomly assigned to write about friends with good or bad self-control. Those who wrote about a friend with good self-control did better on word identification tests related to self-control, the researchers found.
"I think the message is really two-fold," vanDellen said of the research. "The first is, one way you can improve your behavior is by finding social networkers that support you." It makes sense, she said, to seek out people you know have self-control if you want to boost your own.
The other message, she said, is accountability. The research suggests that others aren't just watching your behavior when you show a lack of self-control but might actually be influenced by it. If a woman's husband is trying to lose weight, for instance, the last thing she should do is act like a lazy person who doesn't exercise in front of him, she said.
The research findings make sense, said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. "Surrounding yourself with motivated, healthy people improves your odds of staying in control," she said.
Diekman said that's certainly the case
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