You convinced yourself in advance: willpower and predetermined conculsions


During spring break, I’ve been reading Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (Penguin, 2011).

Baumeister, a psychologist, and Tierney, a New York Times science writer, argue that willpower (a) really exists, (b) predicts success, and (c) depletes with use, whether it’s being used to resist temptation or accomplish ordinary tasks.

They cite a study in which researchers suggest fighting spouses should come home early from work, while they still have reserves of willpower, so they can avoid conflict caused by long hours of disciplined labor.

The below excerpt from the book is particularly loaded and interesting, for reasons that regular readers of this blog should understand. First, two introductory thoughts:

Christian tradition has long held, “we believe in order to know.”

It turns out “we believe in order to do,” too.

People often conserve their willpower by seeking not the fullest or best answer but rather a predetermined conclusion. Theologians and believers filter the world to remain consistent with the nonnegotiable principles of their faith. The best salesmen often succeed by first deceiving themselves. Bankers packaging subprime loans convinced themselves that there was no problem giving mortgages to the class of unverified borrows classified as NINA, as in “no income, no assets.” Tiger Woods convinced himself that the rules of monogamy didn’t apply to him — and that somehow nobody would notice the dalliances of the world’s most famous athlete.

Baumeister and Tierney, Willpower

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One response to “You convinced yourself in advance: willpower and predetermined conculsions

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