Self-control as hybrid skill

In Surrounding self-control. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 81-100 (2020)
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Abstract
One of the main obstacles to the realization of intentions for future actions and to the successful pursuit of long-term goals is lack of self-control. But, what does it mean to engage in self-controlled behaviour? On a motivational construal of self-control, self-control involves resisting our competing temptations, impulses, and urges in order to do what we deem to be best. The conflict we face is between our better judgments or intentions and “hot” motivational forces that drive or compel us to act in opposing ways. In contrast, on an executive construal of self-control, the emphasis is not on overcoming temptation, but on overriding or inhibiting “cold” automatically triggered routines and habits that are at odds with what we intend to do. Our general aim in this chapter is to contribute to the development of an overarching theory of self-control by exploring ways in which these two apparently competing frameworks can be reconciled. We propose that self-control is best understood as a hybrid set of skills. We draw on recent work on expert motor skill to highlight important ways in which experts differ from novices in the capacities they deploy and the ways in which they deploy them. We consider analogies (and disanalogies) between the domain of sports expertise and the domain of self-control. We end by considering how such a hybrid approach can help us reconcile a motivational and an executive approach to self-control.
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