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Study: The Benefits Of Saying “I Don’t” vs. “I Can’t”

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Thanks to Elena Aguilar, I’ve learned about an important study that could have important classroom management implications.

The study, titled “I Don’t” versus “I Can’t”: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior, found that having people say “I Don’t” had a major positive effect on fortifying their self-control.

LifeHacker has an excellent summary of the study (most of the research itself is behind a paywall).

But here’s an excerpt from the study itself:


I could see including this research in the information I have students read about in the self-control lessons we do in class (which you can find in my books), and also directly applying it in specific interventions.

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

One Comment

  1. The body and mind also probably recognize that saying “I can’t” is generally a lie and hypocritical – of course, you CAN; you are just refusing to to acknowledge that you don’t want to. Saying “I don’t” vs “I can’t” is much more honest than making excuses, too (“Sorry, I can’t make it,” vs “Sorry, I don’t want to go…”).

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