Latest Research: Psychology and Willpower Reading List

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Willpower weekly reading list is a collection of posts I have come across during the week and find good enough to share with you.

Take a look at the latest finds.

Newest at the top.

willpower reading list

Latest Articles

Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment [PDF]

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of people work from home. Here’s some research about working from home. From China no less. The results are promising:

Call center employees who volunteered were randomly assigned to work from home or in the office for 9 months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, 9% from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days), 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment).

There was a striking overall impact of working from home . The firm improved total factor productivity by between 20% to 30% and saved about $2,000 a year per employee working from home.

Here’s a study how employees across the United States think about working remotely, hybrid and remote team management, meetings, and more.

Sad today, procrastination tomorrow

In a study Prior Day Negative Affect Influences Current Day Procrastination: A Lagged Daily Diary Analysis researchers found that students reported more procrastination following days they experienced higher levels of negative affect. However, procrastination did not predict changes in negative affect. The findings show that negative emotions motivate procrastination behavior.

What you can take home from the study is that when you have negative emotions, then you should pay more attention to procrastination behavior.

Talking to yourself is a good thing

The impact of verbal instructions on goal-directed behavior: The experiments show that relevant verbal instructions boost sustained concentration on task goals when maintaining multiple tasks.

Self-Directed Speech Affects Visual Search Performance: Participants searched for common objects, while being sometimes asked to speak the target’s name aloud. Speaking facilitated search, particularly when there was a strong association between the name and the visual target. As the discrepancy between the name and the target increased, speaking began to impair performance. Together, these results speak to the power of words to modulate ongoing visual processing.

Mechanisms underlying the self-talk–performance relationship: The effects of motivational self-talk on self-confidence and anxiety: self-talk can enhance self-confidence and reduce cognitive anxiety. Increases in self-confidence can be regarded as a viable function explaining the facilitating effects of self-talk on performance.

Self-Talk and Sports Performance: A Meta-Analysis: self-talk interventions were more effective for tasks involving relatively fine motor demands, and for novel tasks. Instructional self-talk was more effective for fine tasks than was motivational self-talk. Instructional self-talk was more effective for fine tasks. Finally, interventions including self-talk training were more effective than those not including self-talk training. The results of the study establish the effectiveness of self-talk in sport, encourage the use of self-talk as a strategy to facilitate learning and enhance performance, and provide new research directions.

Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others: among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true. Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, but backfire for the very people who “need” them the most.

February 2020

Mapping 24 Emotions Conveyed by Brief Human Vocalization

Emotional vocalizations are central to human social life. Recent studies have documented that people recognize at least 13 emotions in brief vocalizations. This capacity emerges early in development, is preserved in some form across cultures, and informs how people respond emotionally to music.

Vocal bursts convey at least 24 distinct kinds of emotion. Emotion categories (sympathy, awe), more so than affective appraisals (including valence and arousal), organize emotion recognition. In contrast to discrete emotion theories, the emotion categories conveyed by vocal bursts are bridged by smooth gradients with continuously varying meaning.

We visualize the complex, high-dimensional space of emotion conveyed by brief human vocalization within an online interactive map.

Check out the vizualization here:


Situational Strategies for Self-Control

Situational Strategies for Self-Control Exercising self-control is often difficult, whether declining a drink in order to drive home safely, passing on the chocolate cake to stay on a diet, or ignoring text messages to finish reading an important paper. But enacting self-control is not always difficult, particularly when it takes the form of proactively choosing or changing situations in ways that weaken undesirable impulses or potentiate desirable ones. Examples of situational self-control include the partygoer who chooses a seat far from where drinks are being poured, the dieter who asks the waiter not to bring around the dessert cart, and the student who goes to the library without a cell phone.

Using the process model of self-control, we argue that the full range of self-control strategies can be organized by considering the timeline of the developing tempting impulse. Because impulses tend to grow stronger over time, situational self-control strategies-which can nip a tempting impulse in the bud-may be especially effective in preventing undesirable action.

Situational Strategies for Self-Control 2

Ironically, we may underappreciate situational self-control for the same reason it is so effective-namely, that by manipulating our circumstances to advantage, we are often able to minimize the in-the-moment experience of intrapsychic struggle typically associated with exercising self-control.

How to avoid returning to your bad habits

People pursue goals throughout their lives, and many of these attempts end happily—a goal is achieved. However, what facilitates the continuation of behaviors that are aligned with the completed goal, such as continuing to monitor food intake after completing a diet program?

Shifting people’s focus of a metaphor from focusing on the destination to the journey leads to consequentially different perceptions and behaviors. We isolated a mechanism for why people would continue goal-aligned behaviors after attaining their specific goals—enhanced perceptions of personal growth.

Earlier articles

The lesson to unlearn

In school, we are learning to be great at tests. We learn how to hack tests to get better grades. After we finish school we tend to take that mentality to the workplace and try to find easy solutions. Because hacking a test is easy. Even studying for the test is easier than learning the material outright.

Read next:  Why You Need to Ask for What You Want [2021]

20 20 20 microbreak

Deep work is something that lets you achieve your goals faster than anything else. However, if you work for hours then you need breaks. On the other hand, you may not break your flow by taking an extended break. 20-20-20 technique is here to help.

  • Every 20 minutes take a
  • 20-second break and
  • look at something more than 20 feet away

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks

Why it feels like everything is going haywire. Read how social media and instant communication at scale makes it possible to create huge factions. How these factions will live in their separate bubbles and further distance from each other.

10-Hour Time-Restricted Eating Reduces Weight, Blood Pressure

10 h time-restricted eating (TRE) in metabolic syndrome (MetS) promotes weight loss. TRE in MetS reduces waist circumference, percent body fat, and visceral fat. TRE in MetS lowers blood pressure, atherogenic lipids, and glycated hemoglobin. Benefits of TRE are “add-ons” to statin and anti-hypertensive medications.

Many people reported eating less just because they had less time to do it. When I experimented with intermittent fasting and restricted my eating to 6 hours every day, it was much easier to control my meals. For me, one of the key points was that, no eating is a much easier rule to follow that eating less.

Learn from those with high self-control

Don’t go after goals to prove something to other people or to look good. Three studies about choosing goals that express the true self. A novel mechanism of the effect of self‐control on goal attainment.

The studies provided the first evidence that differences in the type of goals people pursue might account for the positive relationship between self‐control and goal attainment. High self‐control individuals were more likely to pursue goals that reflected their true (vs. public) self and were consequently more successful at goal attainment.

The goal authenticity is a distinct mechanism explaining why people with high self‐control are better at reaching their goals.

When asked to set personal goals for the coming week, high self‐control participants were more likely to set authentic goals and were consequently more likely to report stronger progress toward these goals one week later.

It seems that the marshmallow test still valid!

LMU economist Fabian Kosse has re-assessed the results of a replication study that questioned the interpretation of a classical experiment in developmental psychology. The new analysis reaffirms the conclusions of the original study.

The replication study essentially confirms the outcome of the original study. In fact it demonstrates that the marshmallow test retains its predictive power when the statistical sample is more diverse and, unlike the original work, includes children of parents who do not have university degrees. In our view, the interpretation of the new data overshoots the mark. The result actually points in the same direction as the study by Mischel and colleagues, but the effect itself is somewhat less pronounced. ~ Fabian Kosse

Weekends and vacations may derail your habit-forming

I often feel that when I change my routine then my habits start to change. I have noticed less consistent habits in all areas. Starting from eating and working behavior to exercise. Now a part of the study about habits gave me some insight on why it happens.

Habits were typically formed in work-based contexts. Weekends and vacations temporarily disrupted performance due to absence of associated cues, but habits were reinstated on return to work. Implications for theory and practice are discussed. ~ Experiences of habit formation: A qualitative study

Workers are 13% more productive when they report being happy

A study finds out if the employee happiness has an impact on productivity. The results are impressive. Happy workers make 13% more sales. In some cases, 13% may mean the difference between being profitable or going out of business.

These effects are driven by workers making more calls per hour, adhering more closely to their workflow schedule, and converting more calls into sales when they are happier.

5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Beat Procrastination

BY JESSICA STILLMAN @ENTRYLEVELREBEL: A raft of psychological studies have looked into why we put things off and how to stop. Here are the top takeaways:

  1. Start Easy
  2. Break It Down
  3. Be Nice to Yourself
  4. Get a Good Why
  5. Be Mindful
  6. You can read more on how to beat procrastination here.

From OM To OMG: Science, Your Brain, And The Productive Powers Of Meditation

By @BelleBCooper: Using fMRI scans, we can now see what meditation does to the brain. The author suggests it can lead to a happier, more productive, and creative life. And even two minutes a day can do wonders.

calming mind brain waves

I’ve actually found how simple (not easy, but simple) meditation can be and what a huge benefit it can have for my day-to-day happiness.

6 Science-Backed Methods To Improve Your Memory

research tested ways to improve your memory

It turns out that science is continually finding new connections between simple things we can do every day and an improvement in our general memory capacity. Memory is a complicated process that’s made up of a few different brain activities.

You don’t learn until you launchyou don't learn until you launch

Dan Norris: This time, I didn’t have seven years or 11 months. At the end of the week, I needed traction on the idea or I would have to shut everything down and start job hunting. I had one last crack. This would be my last startup attempt.

Rethinking the Bucket List: Kathleen Taylor at TEDxTampaBay

Kathleen Taylor talks about what helping people that are dying has taught her about being your authentic self.

24 Brilliant Psychological Life Hacks That Successful People Have Been Using Forever

These small shifts will give you greater control of potentially important outcomes, from everyday situations to stressful job interviews. I’ve adapted these awesome pieces of advice from an AskReddit thread on the topic.

Read next:  How Bonuses Reduce Motivation and Productivity [2 VIDEOS]

focus daniel goleman Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule

What it Actually takes to reach genius-level excellence? This is an interesting read however the original 10000h idea included the same rigorous exercise ideas. Goleman is not really “debunking” it.

The Psychology of Getting Unstuck

How to overcome the “OK Plateau” of performance and personal growth.

Cognitive load

While reading this sentence, hum your favorite pop tune while writing down the first 15 prime numbers, in order. Seth Godin writes how cognitive load slows us down, distracts us and diminishes the quality of the work we do.

I Followed My Own Productivity Advice For A Week

What if I formalized this unconscious process? What if, for one week, I fully practiced what I preached? Would the productivity hacks become home? Here’s what happened when I spent a week following my own advice.

Forget Time Management

In this video, Clear explains the biggest lesson he’s learned when it comes to habit formation and how it has helped him supercharge his productivity. Do this instead and be more productive:


The REAL reason you’re stressed out

It’s not why you think. The stress and frustration you’re experiencing has nothing to do with what’s happening right now in this minute. Really, truly. AND, The stress you’re experiencing is nothing more than resistance to what is.

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

No one said building a company was easy. But it’s time to be honest about how brutal it really is–and the price so many founders secretly pay. More entrepreneurs have begun speaking out about their internal struggles in an attempt to combat the stigma on depression and anxiety that makes it hard for sufferers to seek help.

Hard-Thing-About-Hard-Things-Ben-Horowitz Here’s great book on the ups and downs of entrepreneurship The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular Ben’s blog.

While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences.

When you are interested in this book then you might want to read another willpower book from this list.

Working in Pulses

The idea was to chunk my time to minimize the constant multitasking, “role switching,” and toggling back and forth between work and home stuff like a brainless flea on a hot stove.

6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Day

In the lives of busy people, we sometimes forget what’s important. These six questions will help you gain focus and productivity. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day and just do everything as if on autopilot, without much thought for the bigger issues at stake. Asking yourself these questions in busy times will help you stay focused, humble, and on target.

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What more should I do?
  3. What can I let go?
  4. How can I be more efficient?
  5. Whom should I thank?
  6. How should I start tomorrow?

Coming Back From a Setback

I set myself a challenge recently, and I’ve been failing at it. I decided to only eat bland food, with no variety. The month is only 2/3 over, but I’ve struggled much more than I’d anticipated.

Looking back on how I got out of my past struggles, it’s instructive in my current struggle. I’ve always gotten out, read about some of the things that worked.

10 Reasons You Have To Quit Your Job

James Altucher updated his reasons for quitting your job for 2018. How to manage your time better? But from time to time being too effective may lead to burnout. So many people simmer with chronic despair, stuck in a job for five years, 20, 30, and they think they are too late. Here’s a slide deck from 2014.

THE GAME IS OVER. That game where they get to hire you for 40 years, pay you far less than you create, and then give you a gold watch, and then you get bored, you get depressed, and you die alone.

26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20

6 Simple Habits That Can Save You Hours

Every minute counts! Three productivity experts offer six ideas for hacking your habits for maximum productivity. From shortcuts and life hacks to proven productivity methods, we’re all looking to save time and get more done. If you want to be even more successful, it’s time to tap into your superpowers: your habits.

2. Log out!

The extra step of having to enter in your password will buy you enough time to realize that you’re distracting yourself and shouldn’t

The 12 Stages of Burnout

The burnout process has been divided into 12 phases by psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North. In a Scientific American Mind article, the stages are outlined as such.


Image: Running by Eneas De Troya

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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower