Why do so many politicians get into trouble? – Whether it’s Argentinean affairs and Ponzi schemes or personal battles with obesity and drug addiction, people regularly give in to greed, lust and self-destructivebehaviors. This is partly because we believe we have more self control than we actually have.

Researcher Loran Nordgren wanted to find out how an individual’s belief in his or her ability to controlimpulses such as greed, drug craving and sexual arousal influenced responses to temptation. He discovered that “people are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation. The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower.”

One of his experiments that focused on cigarette addiction found those who overestimated their capacity for self-control were much more likely to smoke a cigarette after simply watching a movie about smoking. Nordgren says, “While our study focused on personal behaviors like smoking and eating, it is easy to apply our findings to a broader context. Understanding the power of temptation, you might also ask about the extent to which we need oversight or regulatory guidelines for business and political leaders.”

Nordgren believes we should think twice before judging those who fall prey to temptation because most people overestimate their capacity to control their own impulses. Our many philandering politicians certainly prove that theory!

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