More Self-Control shows More Efficient Brain

Self Control

Researchers have found that people with more self control have more efficient brain.

This research has been published online in the journal Nature Communications.

Although the research is not clearly showing that whether efficient brains could result in more self control but the results are showing clearly that more self-control results in more willpower, according to the research author Marc Berman, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Toronto’s Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest.

“If your brain is so efficient you might be able to save resources,” Berman said.

Researchers in this study worked on individuals “first studied in children at age 4 years” for the famous “marshmallow test” 40 years ago. In the test, children were asked to eat one marshmallow immediately or wait for 15 minutes and eat two. Researchers found that the children, who waited for 15 minutes, grew to be significantly different from the other fellows. According to Berman, as teenagers they got higher scores on SATs and are less likely to abuse by drugs and after reaching the adulthood, they showed less body mass indices (BMI i.e. the measure of the body fatness), had more money in bank accounts and showed less chances of getting divorce.

Researchers did a brain scan of the 24 participants, who are 45 years old now, out of 600 original participants of the marshmallow test through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while giving them a task of memory. They found that the participants, who showed high self-control were more efficient in performing the task and the blood flow in the scans showed that the brain networks used a more direct and simple path to do the task. “The present results suggest that dimensionality of neural networks is a biological predictor of self-control abilities”, researchers wrote.


Berman, M., Yourganov, G., Askren, M., Ayduk, O., Casey, B., Gotlib, I., Kross, E., McIntosh, A., Strother, S., Wilson, N., Zayas, V., Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Jonides, J. (2013). Dimensionality of brain networks linked to life-long individual differences in self-control Nature Communications, 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2374

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  • Brad Henderson

    I feel the sample being tested should of been larger to give greater results for the expeirement. They should of tried to pull children of all ethnicities and from very different cities/states/ and countries to have a much more effective answer in proving weither the theory is in fact true. I understand that it would of been a hard expeirment to pull off to get a effective answer 40 years later, but it would help make this theory more accepted in the world of science and phychology. There are many factors that also could of influenced the tested sameple in their lives to turn out how they turned out. This goes along with Francis Galton’s Nature versus Nurture debate. Weither the people tested were going to end up the way they turned out becuase they were born with those traits, or they all had similar lifestyles and enviormental factors growing up to make them who they currently are. Despite the scale of the expeirement, I do tend to agree that people with more self control have more effecient brains.

  • Andrea Wilshsuen

    I lean toward the theory that people with more self control have a more efficient brain. Though, have you thought about how previous perspectives in psychology might have explained the self control (or lack of) of the individuals tested? Such as the behavioral perspective, studying how behavior is changed by the environment around them. Perhaps they learned self control from parents and or peers. That could still affect the individuals self control in later life. Or using the cross-cultural perspective, looking at how culural factors influenced the certain individuals behavior. It could be a possibility that the self control in the individuals vary due to different cultural settings they live in.