Self-Control Endnotes

Self-Control Endnotes

About these endnotes

This is where we provide references and in-depth information about everything in the Self-Control playbook.


We honor and thank the scientists whose research inspired this Playbook. In particular, we thank Gabriele Oettingen for working with our designers and educators to bring WOOP to classrooms everywhere. Any errors or omissions are ours.

How we define this strength

Self-control means doing what’s important to you in the long run instead of what feels good in the moment but is later regretted. For example, scrolling through your Instagram feed might be fun but not worth falling behind on your work.

Self-control is self-initiated: if you turn off the phone to focus on work, that is an act of self-control; but if someone else tells you to do it, then it is compliance.

Unlike other kinds of decisions, self-control dilemmas occur when the choice that you know is in your long-term interest conflicts with the choice that feels good right away. For example, choosing between two ice cream flavors, and wishing you could have both, does not tax self-control. (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007; Duckworth, Taxer, Eskreis-Winkler, Galla, & Gross, in press).

The victory over self

See Plato in Laws, Book 1, p.626. With its twelve books, this is the longest of Plato’s dialogues—and the only one not to feature Socrates.

The most important scientific discovery

Personal correspondence between Walter Mischel and Angela Duckworth, July 2013. Walter Mischel was a pioneer in the scientific study of self-control and among the most influential psychologists of the modern era.

Greater self-control predicts academic and professional achievement, physical and emotional well-being, positive social relationships, and financial security

Self-control predicts report card grades, standardized achievement test scores, and other metrics of academic performance (Duckworth & Carlson, 2013; Duckworth & Seligman, 2017).

Self-control is also related to success and well-being outside the classroom (Mischel, 2014; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). The predictive power of self-control for these positive life outcomes is comparable to that of general intelligence or socioeconomic status (Moffitt et al., 2011).


Woop (Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan) has been studied in the psychological literature as MCII (Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions).

In the Mental Contrasting (MC) phase, people contrast a desired future state (e.g., studying more) with obstacles that stand in the way of the realization of such fantasies (e.g., being easily distracted by social media). This technique has been shown to strengthen goal commitment (Oettingen, 2012).

In the Implementation Intention (II) phase of the intervention, people formulate specific plans to deal with obstacles (e.g., if my sister annoys me while I’m studying, then I will go to the library). This technique increases the likelihood of goal attainment (Gollwitzer, 1999).

MCII is more effective than either Mental Contrasting (MC) or Implementation Intentions (II) alone (Adriaanse et al., 2010). MCII training increases self-control, not only in adults but in school-age children and adolescents as well (Duckworth, Kirby, Gollwitzer, & Oettingen, 2013; Duckworth, Grant, Low, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2011).


Adriaanse, M. A., Oettingen, G., Gollwitzer, P. M., Hennes, E. P., de Riddler, D. T. D., & de Wit, J. B. F. (2010). When planning is not enough: Fighting unhealthy snacking habits by mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII). European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 1277–1293.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current  Directions in Psychological Science,16, 351–355.

Duckworth, A. L., & Carlson, S. M. (2013). Self-regulation and school success. In B. W. Sokol, F. M. E. Grouzet, & U. Müller (Eds.), Self-regulation and autonomy: Social and developmental dimensions of human conduct (pp. 208-230). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Duckworth, A. L., Kirby, T., Gollwitzer, A., & Oettingen, G. (2013). From fantasy to action: Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) improves academic performance in children. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(6) 745-753.

Duckworth, A. L., Gendler, T., & Gross, J. (2016). Situational strategies for self-control. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(1), 35-55.

Duckworth, A. L. & Seligman, M. (2017). The science and practice of self-control. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(5), 715–718.

Duckworth, A. L., Taxer, J. Eskreis-Winkler, L., Galla, B., & Gross, J. J. (in press). Self-control and academic achievement. Annual Review of Psychology.

Duckworth, A.L., White, R.E., Matteucci, A.J., Shearer, A., & Gross, J.J. (2016). A stitch in time: Strategic self-control in high school and college students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(3), 329-341.

Ent, M. R., Baumeister, R. F., & Tice, D. M. (2015). Trait self-control and the avoidance of temptation. Personality and Individual Differences, 74, 12–15.

Gollwitzer, P.M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493- 503.

Kross, E., & Ayduk, O. (2017). Self-distancing: Theory, research, and current directions. In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 55, pp. 81-136). Academic Press.

Imhoff, R., Schmidt, A. F., & Gerstenberg, F. (2013). Exploring the interplay of trait self-control and ego depletion: Empirical evidence for ironic effects. European Journal of Personality, 28, 413–424.

Mischel, W. (2014). The marshmallow test: Mastering self-control. New York: Hachette.

Mischel, W., & Ebbesen, E. B. (1970). Attention in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16(2), 329-337

Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., ... & Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693-2698.

Oettingen, G. (2012). Future thought and behaviour change. European Review of Social Psychology, 23, 1-63.

Plato (1967). Laws (Robert Gregg Bury, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

Schroeder, J. R., Latkin, C. A., Hoover, D. R., Curry, A. D., Knowlton, A. R., & Celentano, D. D. (2001). Illicit drug use in one's social network and in one's neighborhood predicts individual heroin and cocaine use. Annals of Epidemiology, 11(6), 389-394.

Tangney, J. P., Baumeister, R. F., & Boone, A. L. (2004). High self‐control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades, and interpersonal success. Journal of Personality, 72(2), 271-324.