Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: willpower is more than a metaphor. Academic Article uri icon


  • The present work suggests that self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source. Laboratory tests of self-control (i.e., the Stroop task, thought suppression, emotion regulation, attention control) and of social behaviors (i.e., helping behavior, coping with thoughts of death, stifling prejudice during an interracial interaction) showed that (a) acts of self-control reduced blood glucose levels, (b) low levels of blood glucose after an initial self-control task predicted poor performance on a subsequent self-control task, and (c) initial acts of self-control impaired performance on subsequent self-control tasks, but consuming a glucose drink eliminated these impairments. Self-control requires a certain amount of glucose to operate unimpaired. A single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels, thereby impairing subsequent attempts at self-control.

published proceedings

  • J Pers Soc Psychol

altmetric score

  • 357.69

author list (cited authors)

  • Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Plant, E. A., Tice, D. M., Brewer, L. E., & Schmeichel, B. J

citation count

  • 823

complete list of authors

  • Gailliot, Matthew T||Baumeister, Roy F||DeWall, C Nathan||Maner, Jon K||Plant, E Ashby||Tice, Dianne M||Brewer, Lauren E||Schmeichel, Brandon J

publication date

  • February 2007