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Scientific Secrets for Self-Control

Narrated by: C. Nathan DeWall
Length: 3 hrs and 1 min
4 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Join an expert in self-control research for six engaging and inspirational lessons that shatter the myths about willpower and replace them with verifiable science that can make the seemingly unattainable finally possible. Packed with eye-opening studies, experiments, and exercises to strengthen your self-control when dealing with money, fitness, personal relationships, and more, this course will have you wondering why you ever doubted yourself.

Whether you're looking for new ways to resist temptation, make a strong first impression, or better control your emotions, this is your guide to understanding—and mastering—what is a frequently misunderstood subject. In clear language, your award-winning professor introduces you to the general theories behind self-control: what it is, how it works, and how you can take steps to improve it.

Among the topics you'll investigate:

  • How researchers discovered that delayed gratification can lead to better individual well-being in everything from higher self-worth to less sensitivity to rejection
  • One of the most influential theories about how self-control works - the limited resource model, which argues that self-control relies on limited energy that becomes depleted after use
  • How scientists discovered the link between the prefrontal cortex and aggression, and how people at risk for violent anger show abnormalities in that region of the brain.

Alongside groundbreaking scientific findings and research, you'll get personal exercises, activities, and thought experiments you can use to practice strengthening your self-control skills to meet whatever specific goals you want to achieve.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses

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    5 out of 5 stars

Why do people fail to control their impulses?

This is my first Great Course and I can only hope the other ones I’ve purchased live up to this one. I chose this one because I admit I have issues with self-control. Impulsivity. Poor judgement. I was more than willing to take a chance on a book that might give me some insight. Professor DeWall did just that.

His six lectures were a mixture of studies, interpretation, and then solid series of steps the listener can make. Although I would recommend listening to each lecture and then doing the tasks for a week, I don’t have that level of patience and so I listened to the entire audio at once.

So maybe I could use some self-control – or suggestions on how to improve.

Improve? Self-control can be improved?

I was skeptical, but after the lectures, I’m ready to try a couple of them.

Of all the studies he discussed, the Marshmallow study was the one that stuck with me the most because I remember watching the video as a university student many eons ago. Children who were 5-years-old sat at a table and a marshmallow was put in front of them. If they could wait 15 minutes, they would get two. If they ate the one in front of them, that was it. The children didn’t realize they were being videotaped and I can still picture one of the children who played with the marshmallow repeatedly. Did everything with it except eat it. That study also included the parents and teachers reporting on the child’s self-control. Fortunately, the researchers were able to bring the kids back as adults and ask questions about their lives now. I’m not going to give everything away, but the score the subjects were given as a child was very predictive of their future. Future successes, future failures. Future love and professional lives. I hadn’t heard the longitudinal part of the study and that blew me away.

There were so many great examples of the concept of self-control at work. But I digress a bit. Professor DeWall spends a lot of time explaining what ‘energy resource’ is. I’m glad he gave several examples because this was not a concept I was familiar with and I wanted to understand. Once I did have a grasp of it, the future references to it within the book made sense. Added the activities to improve myself and I felt I got a lot out of this book.

The Professor also discusses self-control idols and although Michael Phelps or Oprah Winfrey are at the top of most people’s list, mine is Dame Barbara Cartland. The woman was prolific, writing almost 723 books, selling almost a billion dollars’ worth of books (second only to Shakespeare and Agatha Christie). In one year, she wrote 23. By any standard, that’s impressive. Stephen King has the same work ethic. They decided what their goal was and organized their environment to enable them to succeed.

Of all the advice, I think preplanning was the best advice for someone like me. The Professor suggests sitting down before the week begins and mapping out all the energy-intensive activities. By recognizing the moments when I will find myself depleted, I can ensure I have something to help me boost my energy – be it protein, a few minutes of relaxation, putting off activities that can be moved, as well as putting aside some time each week to improve my self-control. I also need to better recognize when I am depleted and understand that I’ll be more likely to get angry or lose my temper.

There are so many things I want to talk about, but I’m going to encourage people to buy the book and give the lectures a try. I think one of the most fascinating sections is “Frist Impressions and
Stereotypes”. I like to consider myself progressive, but even I, when depleted, can fall into certain unproductive behaviours. His suggestions will be beneficial to even the most open-minded thinker.

Professor DeWall is an engaging speaker and clearly someone who loves his research topics. Social psychology is an interesting field and although I enjoyed my psych classes, I never felt connected to the topics. I’m glad Dr. DeWall put these lectures together so I could learn new material without getting bored. And I plan to use some of those suggestions because, even at my age, I want to continue to grow and improve as a person.

Or, as he suggests, 'Taming the Impulse Beast'. #Audible1

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • DaemonZeiro
  • Burlington, VT
  • 2013-07-11

Don't skimp on this one

This one starts out alright but there are a LOT of things that one can find wrong with the experiments spoken about later on. This is only 3hrs but it's worth even less, about 45min. Instead, skip this truncated summation of psychological experiments and suggestions to do illogical things for training purposes and go straight to "The Willpower Instinct" which contains descriptions of all the best psychological studies AND realistic ways of both understanding and improving upon your willpower.

134 of 140 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jake
  • 2014-09-24

Sometimes the secret is that the chest is empty...

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor C. Nathan DeWall?

No. The content was very loose but I have other titles of "The Great Courses" which I enjoyed. For a more detailed review, please see below.

Has Scientific Secrets for Self-Control turned you off from other books in this genre?

No. Other books deserve consideration based on their content, not the lack of substance from this series.

What three words best describe Professor C. Nathan DeWall’s voice?

Average, Acceptable, Level

Was Scientific Secrets for Self-Control worth the listening time?

No. I didn't finish this audio book. I decided to stop committing time to this book on my commute toward the end of Chapter 4, finally losing the last reserves of self control required to listen to what amounted to pretty much nothing. Most of the information is common sense. There are a few relevant take away's which, while interesting, aren't backed up with any significant findings. Or they exist amid a sea of repetitive, irrelevant "facts". The narrator often states phrases such as, "the research supports", or "in a recent study". I do not require countless references or plugs to specific researchers or institutions, but with only 2 direct references to the "studies", I felt the information wasn't credible.

The narrator doesn't even go as far as to beg the question. He makes a statement such as, "Do monkeys show signs of self control?" Follows with a few examples, all of which are preceded by, "A research" or "A study". Then finishes with, "yes, they do show self control". The true issue here is that it doesn't just happen once. He then moves on to another mammal and tells the exact same story. This methodical approach happens often throughout, and it doesn't take long before you realize you haven't actually learned anything.

Any additional comments?

There simply isn't much here. It happens. I was skeptical of the newest wave of courses due to their low times, and after reading a few similar reviews, may be less eager to purchase the next one. However, I have had very good luck with some of the longer volumes. They seemed to have more attention to detail and spent time addressing specific concepts rather than repeating broad generalizations.

113 of 119 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Chris
  • 2014-01-21

Science was never so uninteresting.

What disappointed you about Scientific Secrets for Self-Control?

All of the studies, none of the numbers. Why bother mentioning all of the studies if you are not going to go into any of the details. Not a single factual number is presented. All of the lectures could be summed up in about 3 sentences of common sense. Dan Ariely - Predictably Irrational and books like that give the science and you get a view into what actually happened during the experiments. Not simply, "you know what 'More People' did this, Less people did that" I had to turn the lecture off. This will be the only audible book I will have returned for a refund. The Great Courses has some great professors, Robert Greenberg is amazing. He is a great presenter, story teller, he understands how to hold someones interest even in a very difficult subject. I swear I was being tricked. I must use my self control not to turn this OFF.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Anything from Robert Greenberg is amazing so far.

How could the performance have been better?

Present some actual experiments with the numbers the facts the details. Not "Turns Out...." The professor sounds somewhat bored with the whole thing. Give some real life examples, inspiring anecdotes, liven this dud of a subject up.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

41 of 43 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • John M. Kellum
  • Seattle, WA
  • 2013-07-18

"Mr Rogers Lite" talks about self control

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Disappointed pretty much across the board. Wanted to like it and actually renewed by Platinum membership for the 2sd time in 2013 and this was the first book i pulled down.
Content was nothing that anyone interesting in area would not already have know or found out from reading an old Psychology Today in the dentist office.
Their may have been a table of contents but I didn't feel like it reflected a clear model.
Still quite angry I spend a credit on this and had to give up 2/3 way into the lecture and I not doing a good job but just so don't want to invest any more time ..
Just listen to a sample first...

btw - unless I mistaken Mr Rogers uses the phrase "most easiest" somewhere in 2sd or 3rd chapter...
better suggestions welcomed.
john

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

Dumbed down delivery on top of simplistic content

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Felt like he was talking to remedial Freshman class ...

Any additional comments?

Waited two days to write and while I sure Prof DeWall is nice guy and many love him as a professor considering the intro but still hate I wasted so much time before giving up.

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2015-01-02

Study of the Obvious

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

someone without much intuition and experience in life.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

I love the Great Courses, and was hoping for more from this course.

Any additional comments?

This book does no more than state the obvious, and tries to make it sound as though exhaustive research was needed to learn what most people already know.
Example: You have more will power when you are not exhausted. (duh!)
Example: People with low will power don't do well in life. (duh!)
Example: Practicing will power will make you better at employing will power. (duh!)

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 2013-11-27

A series of studies

If you're looking for a self-help course for self-control, this is not it. This is a course that looks at and analyzes scientific studies to understand the variables regarding self control in various individuals, both internally and externally. A good overview if you are already familiar with the experiments, which can also be an introduction for you to look deeper.

If anything, it could have been longer and give each experiment more time.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Heath
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 2015-01-03

Offers very few practical suggestions

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Change in content or title. The content is about studies around self control that prove two obvious points: (1) making good decisions requires self control, (2) exercising self control makes you happier and more successful, (3) exercising self control takes mental energy, so (a) you have more self control when you have more mental energy, and (b) you have less self control when you have less mental energy.There is very little in the way of secrets for self control , i.e., tips for how to have more or better self control. The few that come out are (1) don't make choices when you're hungry or tired (put off the decision until you eat or get some sleep), and (2) minimize your distractions when making choices.

Has Scientific Secrets for Self-Control turned you off from other books in this genre?

I'll be much more wary about buying anything from The Great Courses.

What three words best describe Professor C. Nathan DeWall’s performance?

Stilted, bright, superficial (i.e., not deep)

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. Kept listening hoping that he would get into more concrete tips. Instead, he literally kept repeating the premise that when people have more self control energy they make better decisions or do better in (insert context) and when people have less self control energy they make worse decisions and are less satisfied in (insert context).

Any additional comments?

The interesting part of this might be hearing various experiments that prove commonsense ideas, but even the experiments aren't that interesting (eat one marshmallow now or two later, see a word that is a color, but printed in a different color). These don't provide much concrete help.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • johnny
  • nyc
  • 2015-11-15

Can't recommend this one..

What would have made Scientific Secrets for Self-Control better?

The title, "Scientific Secrets for Self-Control" implies that scientific methods were utilized in the creation of this course. However, there were far too many sentences that started with statements like, "Studies have shown...", without any validation of the studies' conclusions or further discussion of opposing theories. Not very scientific at all, I felt.

Would you recommend Scientific Secrets for Self-Control to your friends? Why or why not?

Would not recommend this one simply because the conclusions reached (and therefore the resulting advice given) are not supported well enough.

Any additional comments?

Make the course a little longer and discuss the "science" behind the conclusions.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Richard
  • 2014-07-04

Uninspiring

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor C. Nathan DeWall?

Professor DeWall's use of the English language ruins whatever value there might be in this course. This was painful to listen to. I gave up and asked for a return.

What didn’t you like about Professor C. Nathan DeWall’s performance?

The immature use of English was disturbing.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Saurabh Chandra
  • 2019-09-09

Not rigorous or compelling

This book was no where near as rigorous and compelling as other Great Courses. I was quite disappointed.