Freiburg psychologists discover the link between a “calm mind” and a better capacity for self-control

People who have a “quieter mind” – that is, their neural processes on average take longer and spin less than others – have greater self-control. This was discovered by Dr. Tobias Kleinert, Prof. Dr Markus Heinrichs and Dr Bastian Schiller from the Department of Psychology at the University of Fribourg, as well as Prof. Dr. Kyle Nash and Dr. Josh Leota from the University of Alberta. /Canada, and Prof. Dr. Thomas König from the University Hospital of Bern/Switzerland. Their research is published in the journal Psychological Science. The article has been accepted and is already available online in preprint form.

Differences in self-control due to different brain organization

“Self-regulated behavior is important for achieving long-term goals — such as when we deprive ourselves of high-calorie foods to shed extra pounds,” Schiller says. Why is it easier for some people than for others? Are these individual differences based on a fundamentally different brain organization? To find answers to these questions, the Freiburg researchers recorded electrical activity in the brains of more than 50 relaxed but awake lab participants. The scientists also recorded the participants’ self-control ability through other means: self-report reports, behavioral tasks, and brain activity recorded while they performed these tasks. The results of the study conducted at the University of Friborg were confirmed in a second cooperative study that took place at the University of Alberta/Canada, with more than 100 subjects.

A calmer mind produces fewer distracting stimuli

“On both sides of the Atlantic, we were able to prove a strong link between task-independent neural processing and self-control ability,” says Kleinert. Schiller points out, “Our results indicate that people with greater self-control have a calmer mind, which in itself generates fewer distracting stimuli.” Heinrichs adds: “These findings are extremely important for a better understanding of clinical disorders associated with impaired self-regulation processes.

Background information:

  • Dr. Bastian Schiller is a research assistant in the area of ​​research and teaching of biological psychology, clinical psychology and psychotherapy at the psychology department of the University of Friborg
  • His research mainly focuses on the topics of the psychological and psychobiological foundations of social interactions, the effects of psychosocial stresses on social interactions, the mechanisms of augmentative psychobiological therapeutic approaches as well as the psychological and psychobiological foundations of self-control processes.
  • Original publication: Kleinert, T., Nash, K., Leota, J., Koenig, T., Heinrichs, M., Schiller, B. (in press). A self-controlled mind results in stable mental processing. Psychological sciences. Preprint-DOI: 10.31234/
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