The Science of Self Control and How We Can Use It To Our Advantage

The Yale Club of New York City

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One of the challenges of human life is that what is good for us right now is often not what is good for us in the long term: Dieting for example is not so much fun now, but good for the future; saving is not fun now but good for the future; medical testing, procrastination etc. When we face such tradeoffs, we often focus on the short term rather than our long-term goals and in the process get ourselves into trouble. But wait! There is hope. By understanding where we fall short, there are methods we can use to overcome our natural (and less than desirable) inclinations.

In a highly interactive presentation, Dr. Dan Ariely discussed viable methods of self-control including reward-substitution, loss aversion, and the Ulysses contract while explaining the reasoning behind our behavior when it comes to short term and long term goals. Audience members were encouraged to share how they could integrate self-control techniques into their own lives and learned how research in the field can be applied to wide-scale problems such as global warming and obesity.

The event, sponsored by Worth Publishers, drew in over one hundred and thirty people including students, teachers, financial planners, and government employees.


Dan Ariely, PhD (Duke University)

James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics New York Times Bestseller

Despite our intentions, why do we so often fail to act in our own best interest? Why do we promise to skip the chocolate cake, only to find ourselves drooling our way into temptation when the dessert tray rolls around? Why do we overvalue things that we’ve worked to put together? What are the forces that influence our behavior? Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University, is dedicated to answering these questions and others in order to help people live more sensible – if not rational – lives. His interests span a wide range of behaviors, and his sometimes unusual experiments are consistently interesting, amusing and informative, demonstrating profound ideas that fly in the face of common wisdom.

In addition to appointments at the Fuqua School of Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Department of Economics, and the School of Medicine at Duke University, Dan is also a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.