Scientific Secrets for Self-Control

Course No. 1637
Professor C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D.
University of Kentucky
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2.8 out of 5
69 Reviews
49% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1637
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Course Overview

We’ve all said it to ourselves at one point or another: “If only I had more willpower, I could do the things I really want to do.” Having the mental fortitude to reach your goals, whether they concern your job, your personal finances, your skills at a hobby, or even your waistline, seems forever unattainable. But here’s the truth: Greater willpower and lasting success actually well within your reach.

It all depends on an understanding of the science behind self-control. Long thought to be nothing but myth, the connection between your mind, your body, and your behaviors and emotions actually has powerful scientific evidence behind it. And once you’ve grasped the fundamentals of self-control and learned how to incorporate them into your personal life, you’ll find yourself in possession of a powerful tool for

  • becoming more goal oriented,
  • thinking more positively and constructively,
  • avoiding the negative health effects of emotional baggage and common stressors,
  • beating back self-doubt, and
  • facing the challenges of today and tomorrow with greater confidence in yourself.

Join Professor C. Nathan DeWall, an award-winning teacher and expert in self-control research, for Scientific Secrets for Self-Control. In just six engaging and inspirational lessons, you’ll get a chance to shatter the myths about willpower and replace them with verifiable science that will help make the seemingly unattainable finally possible. Packed with eye-opening studies, experiments, and exercises to strengthen your self-control when dealing with money, physical fitness, personal relationships, and more, this course will have you wondering why you ever doubted yourself.

Investigate Self-Control alongside an Expert

Whether you’re looking for new ways to resist temptation, make a strong first impression, or better control your emotions, Scientific Secrets for Self-Control is your guide to understanding—and mastering—this mysterious, frequently misunderstood subject. In clear and accessible language, Professor DeWall introduces you to the general theories behind self-control: what it is, how it works, and how you can take steps to improve it.

The individual lectures in this course cover a fascinating range of issues related to self-control. Among the topics you’ll have a chance to explore and investigate in the company of an expert:

  • How researchers discovered that delayed gratification can lead to better individual well-being in everything from higher self-worth to less sensitivity to rejection
  • One of the most influential theories about how self-control works—the limited resource model, which argues that self-control relies on limited energy that becomes depleted after use
  • How scientists discovered the link between the prefrontal cortex and aggression, and how people a risk for violent anger show abnormalities in that region of the brain
  • The argument that humans continue to stereotype other people into general groups (boys/girls, old/young, white/non-white, skinny/overweight) as a mental conservation strategy

Strengthen Your Self-Control Skills

Alongside groundbreaking scientific findings and research, you’ll get personal exercises, activities, and thought experiments you can use to practice strengthening your self-control skills to meet whatever specific goals you want to achieve. Each one of Professor DeWall’s lectures concludes with one or two exercises specific to a particular topic (such as aggression, first impressions, delayed gratification).

  • To psychologically recharge your depleted self-control energy, write down your core values and why they matter; self-affirmation is a great way to boost your self-control.
  • Make a plan before entering a tempting environment. For example, before going to a restaurant, look at the menu online so you can plan a strategy to avoid foods you shouldn’t eat.
  • Don’t make any major relationship decisions after you’ve experienced a long, taxing day. Having adequate self-control energy is crucial to making clear, rational decisions you won’t later regret.

These and other exercises are more than just engaging ways for you to practice self-control. They’re highly insightful examples of just how central self-control is to almost everything that you do in your life.

Finally Overcome Challenges and Obstacles

Professor DeWall is at the top of his game in Scientific Secrets for Self-Control, and you’ll quickly see why this popular instructor has earned such acclaim for his teaching and his ideas. The Association for Psychological Science has called Professor DeWall a “rising star” in psychological research, and he has received honors and awards including the Outstanding Teacher Award from the University of Kentucky’s College of Arts and Science and a SAGE Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology.

Add that caliber of instruction to this course’s helpful 3-D animations and use of green screen technology, and these lessons are a dynamic experience, particularly when enjoyed in visual formats.

By turns inspiring, supportive, informative, and enlightening, Professor DeWall has crafted a wonderful course that serves as an invaluable source of support for finally overcoming the obstacles in your life and reaching your true potential.

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6 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Why Is It So Hard to Do What We Should?
    Critical to understanding self-control: understanding why we often fail at it. First, Professor DeWall explains one of the most influential models about how self-control works, and the two classic experiments that tested this model. Then, learn why depleted energy causes us to show poor self-control and how our individual characteristics shape this energy. x
  • 2
    Self-Control Successes and Failures
    What are the secrets behind mastering self-control in your life? Why are specific individuals, from politicians to civil rights leaders, widely considered heroes of self-control? Why does it help to think of self-control as working like an internal thermostat? You’ll find answers to these provocative questions and more here. x
  • 3
    Marshmallows, Monkeys, and Mortality
    In this lecture, go inside the famous “marshmallow experiment” at Stanford University and its revelations about delayed gratification; learn how delaying gratification is important even for primates and dogs; and probe general differences in self-control and its effects on everything from mental health to wealth accumulation to an early death. x
  • 4
    Taming the Impulsive Beast
    Many critics and pundits argue that we live in the most peaceful time in history. So why is aggression still so prevalent around the world? Encounter several core components of self-control, two of which explain why most people commonly refrain from aggressive behavior and one of which explains why aggression still exists. x
  • 5
    First Impressions and Stereotypes
    Why do we tend to mimic one another during our social interactions? Why do we feel that we “gel” with certain people and seek out stronger relationships with those individuals? Why do interactions with different people deplete us of our self-control energy? Join Professor DeWall for an illuminating investigation of these and other questions. x
  • 6
    Romance, Finance, and Your Environment
    Learn how to apply your newfound knowledge of self-control to your romantic relationships, your financial decisions, and your surroundings. As you cover topics including recent studies on happiness and self-control in relationships and the importance of playing offense against your environment, you’ll gain invaluable skills that will promote stronger self-awareness. x

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Your professor

C. Nathan DeWall

About Your Professor

C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D.
University of Kentucky
Dr. C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. He earned an M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. Winner of the Outstanding Teacher Award from the University of Kentucky's College of Arts and Science, Professor DeWall was named a ìrising starî in psychological research by the Association for...
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Scientific Secrets for Self-Control is rated 2.8 out of 5 by 66.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good. I spent money, and I am glad I did. Made sense. Good suggestions.
Date published: 2014-04-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK, but read the book first... The material in this lecture is covered very thoroughly in the book "Willpower" by Roy Baumeister. The lecture was a good review for me, but the book is more thorough. The lecture content is well organized and the presentation is quite smooth. I would recommend this lecture to a friend only if they didn't want to read the book.
Date published: 2014-04-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Absence of written materials is a big problem Yes, some of this is material you have learned elsewhere, but here you learn why along with some additional ways to strengthen your self-control. In six lectures, the course brings together the brain science and the techniques for training your brain. The basic theory is that self-control is an energy system. You have only a certain amount of energy or self-control available at any given point in time. If you have to use your self-control to do one thing, then you will have less self-control for other things. Fortunately, there are ways to restore your self-control in the short-term as well as to strengthen your self-control in both the short- and long-term. Unfortunately, there is no course book and the course starter materials are just about memory. There is no easy way to go back and refresh your memory about all the techniques. Given that I was taking this course for practical help with these issues, this is a huge problem. I don't want to go back and listen to the course again right away, but I do want to be able to easily make a list of the suggested techniques for strengthening my self-control. There were a number of techniques that I had not heard of before, like using your non-dominant hand for extended periods. Since I listen in the car, it is not easy to take notes. Now I will have to go back and listen again somewhere where I can take notes. The professor presents the material well. He has good examples for both the science and the implementation. He suggests a number of scientifically proven techniques or exercises for strengthening your self-control.
Date published: 2014-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Common sense...not so common. This course is quite insightful. Mr. DeWall gives a lot of information to back up his 'common sense' claims. Experiments were performed, tests given! Though most (not all if you ignore some of the critical pieces) of the info should be common sense, I urge you to look around the next time you're in a public place. Sense isn't as common as it should be!
Date published: 2014-01-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Repetitive, not practical, disappointing. The presenter repeated the same points over and over. He gave detailed descriptions of multiple studies and this was not really necessary. I felt he was trying to fill up the time. He used the same phrases over and over. I was hoping for more practical tips rather than theoretical concepts.
Date published: 2014-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Practical and Inspirational Professor DeWall provided practical approaches to self-control – to getting the things you really want from life – supported by scientific research. His suggestions were readily applicable, and simple enough to be undertaken by almost anyone. As a short course, it was, by necessity, limited in content; however the content provided was excellent.
Date published: 2013-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Practical Advice The course is full of examples, research, and tips to help an individual have greater self control and achieve their goals. The main points are clear and instructive. While most of the advice is common sense, I think that most people are too busy going through life to be conscious about why they do what they do. This course allowed me to focus on my goals and gave me the directive to ponder on my behavior towards those goals. I found the course insightful in bringing these subconscious things to the surface to get straightened out. The course does seem to be drawn out. In general my complaint for these short courses are that they are too expensive for what you get, and it would be nice to have a guide book. Despite this, the course was valuable to me and I would recommend it.
Date published: 2013-12-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Common sense in six drawn out lectures This course was a disappointment as have been several recent TC offerings. The material could have been presented in a 90 minute PBS self-help beg-a-thon. The professor may be a likable man, but his love of particular adverbs and adjectives... really, is a donut "extremely delicious"? made it feel like the lectures were padded to make the sale price seem valid. His slow delivery added to my frustration and I wanted to yell "Get on with it! I'm smarter than you think."
Date published: 2013-12-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Straight Forward!Simple but Effective! Great audio purchase off of iTunes for the price. The lectures are simple and common sense approach to self control. It's great, that you are given exercises, to put some of the techniques into use. Only minor gripe, the lecture on race was great! The professor was going over an experiment conducted on a group of people dealing with race. The professor described, when people try to hard to please or watch what they say to another race. The other race takes the conversation as not being genuine. I truly felt that, one second he said "Caucasian" which is a ethnic group from Russia, Then "white" a term constructed by colonial Europeans, then Europeans which is the correct. The one conjunction word that had me going up and down was "Afrakan American" it's ok just to say Afrakan!!!! Afrakan is a race and America is the nationality or just say Nigerian,Kenyan,British etc. It's totally ok to say Afrakan by itself. The techniques he gives in the lectures seem simple but are extremely powerful over a duration of time.
Date published: 2013-12-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging I have found this course very helpful in understanding some of the theory's and practical applications of the human mind and the act of self control. Professor DeWall is a very passionate about his subject matter and presenting it to a lay audience. I appreciate Dr. DeWall's enthusiasm. Thank you for a good presentation.
Date published: 2013-11-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better than that This course has been given unwarranted criticism which may steer others away. I listened to the audio version. Much of the teacher's material is similar to what is found in the popular book, 'Willpower', which the teacher recommends. Instead of abstract and nebulous concepts such as "mindfulness" or "optimistic thinking" the instructor focuses on real and substantiated experiments, mostly conducted on that great resource of lab rats, the American college student. These experiments have revealed the underlining mechanisms of impulse control. It may sound dry, but in fact, knowing how self control works does help to establish strategies for impulse control. This is science, not pop psychology. If you pay attention to what the author is saying you will find valuable and practical tools here that can be effective in many of life's circumstances.
Date published: 2013-11-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing! Little practical Value. This is the first Great Courses lecture I would not recommended. I always believe There is some value in the lectures even if I do not agree with the Professor. I was excited to view the DVD set but was disappointed. The Professor is passionate and engaging but the course content provides little in applicability.
Date published: 2013-07-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from skip this one Sadly I have to agree with the other reviewers who feel that this course is not up to the Great Courses' usual standards. It's pop-psychology drivel, poorly organized and badly presented. I didn't learn anything watching these lectures. I notice the lectures are heavily edited, with a lot of cuts, and some cheesy special effects have been inserted. It's almost as if the producers knew the material was weak, and they tried to jazz it up. I have dozens of Great Courses videos on my shelves. This is the first one I have ever been totally dissatisfied with.
Date published: 2013-07-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good information for the average person I would consider myself an average person as far as self-control goes and did not purchase the course as a diagnostic tool or as a fix for compulsive behaviors. The title sounded interesting and I felt that understanding more about my mind certainly couldn't hurt. The course did turn out to be interesting and the techniques that were offered at the end of each lecture are actually working for me! Setting up intentional statements for myself, monitoring my behavior and eating breakfast have all contributed to what I feel is more self-control in my life. The experiments that were described in each lecture were quite interesting and helped to illustrate many of his points well. Additionally, the presentation of the material was well organized and the presenter was a pleasure to listen to. The only downside was that the idea of mental energy wasn't discussed as much as I would have liked. Although his suggested techniques about how to increase this energy seem to work, I'm not really sure what they are working on and as a result I'm still not sure what exactly is being enhanced. This would have been nice to know so I could do some further research on my own.
Date published: 2013-07-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointing and incomplete This course is about self control regarding spur-of-the-moment daily issues (such as should I eat that donut) as opposed to the far more important self-control as a mental state (ie how to maintain one's composure in both personal, social and professional life). Unfortunately, and as many courses, articles and books attest, you need the latter to succeed at the former. As such, I highly doubt that the recommendations in this course are likely to change anyone's behavior. Furthermore, about 90% of the course is spent on defining self control, it's importance, and how a lack of it can have undesirable consequences, and relatively little on how to attain it. The recommendations made in this course are basically to 1- eat breakfast and make sure you have a snack handy to replete your mental self-control energy, 2- get adequate sleep, 3- make 'if-then' contracts with yourself: "if I see the donut, then I'll walk the other way", 4- monitor the behavior you want to change: your weight for impulsive eaters, your bank account for impulsive shoppers, etc, and 5- make sure you avoid impulsive triggers when your mental energy low. Mental energy is never defined. As a physician and someone who has studied many sources on self-control I have deep concerns with some of these recommendations. For starters, if it was that easy for an impulsive eater with underlying depression and poor social support to simply say 'if I see that donut, then I'll turn the other way' we would not have our current epidemic of obesity. One needs to address the underlying issues leading to impulsive behavior. Second, it seems odd to me to recommend to an impulsive eater to have a snack around to replete your mental energy in case you have a craving for that donut. Most importantly, I don't think one can succeed in band-aid self control methods unless they address the deeper issues which led to impulsive behavior in the first place. Finally, I believe, it is imperative to also insititute measures to attain a mental state conducive to self-control. To reference the article 'Ready for Anything' on resiliency and self-control from July/August 2013 Scientific American Mind, these measures include : mindfulness, optimistic thinking, exercise, social support, and appropriate mentors. I am amazed that most of these issues were not discussed. The professor is personable, well-informed, and easy to listen to. Many times however, it seems as if he is making overly broad conclusions from simple psychology experiments on college students . He also discusses mental self-control energy thorughout the course without ever really defining it or telling us how to replete it #he just tells you to make sure you replete your mental energy#. I was very disappointed with this course and I listened to it twice to make sure I did not miss important issues. But they simply were not there. As a physician interested in this topic I cannot recommned this course. It simplifies the topic and has the potential to mislead people truely in need of help with self-control.
Date published: 2013-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course A short to the point course. Well presented. The Professor highlights the concept of mental energy. Mental energy can exhaust similar to physical energy. I know this feeling well but had never had the same focus as on physical exhaustion. The course details how we fail our goals at times when our self control is exhausted. The course contains methods for forseeing these occasions and ensuring that we retain some mental energy for getting through those points. Very good self help ideas. My next course, The Joy of Science(purchased) will be long at 50 lectures And no doubt academically demanding. Different, but just as good I hope.
Date published: 2013-06-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Are you kidding I have watched over 100 courses of the GREAT COURSES. I have reviewed around 70. This is easily the worst. Is this college course or a self help video? Is Dr. Dewall a professor, or motivational speaker. Non much here. The BETTER LIVING courses are generally the weakest offerings of the Great Courses. Some exceptions: Dr Goodmans course of lifetime health, and Dr Anding course on nutrition. Over all these are not up to the standards of rest of the offerings. I always felt I have perhaps overrated most courses from the Great Courses. But this one is just a stinker.
Date published: 2013-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The course is direct, simple, pragmatical and based on relevant data to support any idea. Useful tips to improve our self-control.
Date published: 2013-06-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Do not waste your time or money I agree with the other two raters that this series was very POOR. I almost stopped listening after the first lecture but kept listening hoping it might get better. It did not! The material was so simplistic and self-evident, I felt insulted. This series is definitely not one of The Great Courses. I would not recommend it to anyone and I'm writing this review to spare others the same pain.
Date published: 2013-06-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Repetitive and Lacking Insights This course was really just a collection of case studies pertaining to the correlation between energy levels and the ability to control one's impulses. Everything was very self-evident (hint: less energy=less self control). During the last 5 minutes of each lecture, the professor dispenses self-help tips. I wrote them here to give you an idea: Lecture 1: Eat breakfast. Sleep more. Periodically reflect on your values and affirm them. Lecture 2: Commit to doing things at a certain time each day before you actually have to do them, using "if..then" statements. Lecture 3: Try to commit to self-control for 5 minutes a day. Lecture 4: Nothing new. Lecture 5: Eat lots of protein. Lecture 6: Don't give up. Brilliant, huh? In summation, this is not serious scholarship. It is drivel. I don't mind simple, catchy self-help ideas, but I don't need someone to beat me over the head with them for six lectures, when the actual content could have easily been condensed down to two. Ultimately, this just felt like an excessively long TED talk.
Date published: 2013-06-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Promising, but not rewarding The course starts out telling you about the greatness you are capable of if you can master your ability for self-control. It goes on to claim it is possible to improve your self control - and that it's easy! Appearantly, it's so easy that he forgets to tell you how it's done. In reality, the lectures are filled with recollections of far-fetched studies trying to prove what everybody already knows. The lectures are as much about the self-evident as self-control. As for techniques and insights to help you improve your self-control - there are none. Well, that's not entirely fair given that he does tend to present some sort of technique during the last minutes of each lecture. For example, he says deciding what you want to do, before you do it, is a good idea. I'm not kidding here, he says it in so many words but any way you look at it, that's all he's saying. Or how about the study which proves that people become angry if you are mean to them? Anyway, the professor seems a likeable chap and the presentation is excellent, but I would advice almost everybody to stay away from this course.
Date published: 2013-06-09
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