In the New York Timestoday, the social psychologist David DeSteno revisits an idea that he explored in depth in our September/October cover story, "A Feeling of Control: How America Can Finally Learn to Deal With Its Impulses." For Pacific Standard, DeSteno unpacked a bunch of emerging research that pokes holes in a major piece of conventional wisdom about self-control: namely, that willpower is the key to restraining our impulses, and emotion is nothing but their enabler.
DeSteno's lab has found mounting evidence that cultivating certain positive emotions—like gratitude—can powerfully enhance the kind of thinking that prizes long-term reward over short-term gain. In other words: those feelings lead to better self-control.
In the Times, DeSteno brushes off this thesis and applies it to a certain upcoming holiday that combines a celebration of gratitude with an occasion for binge-shopping. "That’s right: As hokey as it sounds," DeSteno writes, "the solution to the shopping season’s excesses may lie in the very message of Thanksgiving itself." —John Gravois