Identity and self-control
Deficits in self-control increase the likelihood of ‘unhealthy’ eating and drinking behaviours. Although beliefs about the self are recognised as a key determinant of behaviour in social psychology, there has been little examination of how beliefs about self-control impact on the likelihood of acting in a self-controlled manner. One hypothesis is that the extent to which individuals regard being self-controlled as part of their identity (their sense of self) may predict whether they are self-controlled when around food and alcohol. In the present study, 89 female undergraduate psychology students (M = 19.1 yrs, SD = 1.3) completed an online survey. The survey included measures of self-control identity (e.g. ‘I personally value self-control around alcohol’), self-control efficacy (e.g. “I find it very easy to be self-controlled around food’), demographics, self-reported weight and height and weekly alcohol consumption. Participants also completed two intention measures: intentions to be self-controlled when around food/alcohol and intentions to avoid tempting situations involving food/alcohol during the next few weeks. Linear regression models indicated that self-control identity significantly predicted both intention measures for food and alcohol: participants that identified self-control as an important part of their identity reported they were more likely to intend to exert self-control and avoid tempting situations in the future. Findings indicate that identity may influence intentions to exert self-control. Identity manipulations to promote a greater sense of self-control value could promote self-control around food and alcohol.