Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

Being Reminded Of The Consequences Of Losing Self-Control Doesn’t Help; Asking About Goals Does


A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a pretty interesting new study that — through brain scans — actually showed what the brain looked like when you are demonstrating self-control and when you are not (see This Is — Literally — Your Brain On Self-Control).

I hadn’t gotten a chance at that point to actual read the study, but the researcher was interviewed on NPR today (it hasn’t been posted at the time of my writing, but should be up in a few hours). Here’s the transcript of the interview.

He didn’t seem to be saying anything new on the radio, but then my ears pricked up near the end when he said that, in the study, reminding people about the consequences of their not losing self-control was not effective at getting them to regain it. The intervention that did work, though, was asking them to take a minute and think about behaviors they needed to exhibit to achieve their goals.

His comment prompted me to go back and read the research, and I found that his comment was confirmed in the paper.

It’s just another reinforcer to what I have found that has worked for me — instead of threatening punishment, reminding students of their goals and asking them if their actions were going to help achieve them. I might try to remember, though, to also ask them to think of (and maybe write down) one action they could take to help them along in that direction.

It’s just another “tool” in the classroom management toolbox, and you can find more at The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Great post! I listen to Science Friday and heard the same thing re consequences….
    Also heard when SC is exhausted, you need a break. Telling someone to “suck it up” may not work! Our classrooms are usually not organized to allow a break.

    I love your SC lesson/materials. I use the Sesame Street video on SC and financial “literacy”, as part of lesson. (transcript and link @ )
    Dan Ariely in that video talks how he helps develop SC in his kids. He also describes the battle about marketing messages vs our self control mechanisms.
    I was “blown away” to discover this neuroscientist is in marketing at UofI – not in medicine. Is this research designed to help us develop SC or wil it be used “against” us?

    Thanks for your work!!

  2. Here is the specific transcript from PBS interview
    Re Sesame street video.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And avoid the siren songs of the world’s increasingly crafty pitchmen.

    DAN ARIELY: The people who are 50 now will have an even harder time dealing with temptation than you and I are.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You think?

    DAN ARIELY: Yes. I’m certain, right, because as technology develops, what is technology going to do? Technology is going to help them delay gratification or have more things to spend their money on now?

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, are the brains of most of us now overmatched by the brains of some very able people who have an incentive to get us to act in the here and now?

    DAN ARIELY: I think so. There’s really kind of a very strong imbalance about how much we can tempt people and how much people can actually resist temptation.

    This post was on the same study. Mentions the “battle of heart and mind”. I want to look at the connection of “habits of heart” and “habits of mind”.

    Thanks again, Gene

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar