Richard's Reviews > Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister
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Oct 16, 2015

bookshelves: cognition, nonfiction, to-read-3rd
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Quite a few months ago I learned the term “decision fatigue,” and then I noticed it in action a few days later. I play boardgames quite often, and prefer strategic games. I was in the middle of a tough game, playing in a coffee shop, and during a break I ordered a slice of cake for a snack. Which is strange, because I’m usually very, very good at not going for those sweet treats. It immediately occurred to me that this was an instance of this new-fangled cognate.

Even though I’ve read quite a few PopCog books, I haven’t hit one yet that details it, but as I understand, the idea is simply that the brain has a limited amount of activity to allocate between different tasks. If the highest priority is thinking hard about one’s next move in Hansa Tuetonica , then the subconscious motivation to avoid temptation will receive less activity, and one is more likely to indulge.

This is one of the many complexities that affects our “willpower,” a distinctly old-fashioned term that is getting some well-deserved scrutiny.

This new book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, seems well conceived. It’s written by a top social psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister, along with New York Times science writer John Tierney. I’m a bit frustrated that I still haven’t gotten around to studying the previous Baumeister book on my to-be-read shelf, Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty .

The New York Times review of Willpower, “The Sugary Secret of Self-Control” is authored by none other than Steven Pinker. He approves.

John Tierney wrote a fairly lengthy essay in the New York Times Magazine on this topic, “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?
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Reading Progress

10/16/2015 marked as: to-read-secondary
10/16/2015 marked as: to-read-3rd

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