Is the Good Life Characterized By Self-Control? Exploring Judgments of Global Life Quality

Derrick WIRTZ
Christie N. SCOLLON
SCOLLON, Christie N., Singapore Management University


To what extent do people view self-control as central to achieving a healthy, high-quality life? While scientific evidence strongly supports the notion that self-control is associated with successful adaptation and optimal functioning, we examine whether individuals connect this trait with positive outcomes. In Study 1, participants rated the likelihood that an individual with high self-control (or self-esteem) would experience good health and a high-quality life. Studies 2–3 experimentally portrayed a target person as high or low in self-control (and self-esteem) before participants rated the target on an array of positive outcomes. Across studies, self-control was perceived as less strongly connected with a high-quality life than self-esteem. Mediation analyses suggest that people link self-esteem (but not self-control) with healthy behaviors that, in turn, lead to superior perceived physical and psychological health. While self-esteem is strongly associated with lay concepts of the good life, the importance of self-control may be comparatively under-recognized.