Behavioral and neural correlates of increased self-control in the absence of increased willpower

Eran Magen, Bokyung Kim, Carol S. Dweck, James J. Gross, Samuel M. McClure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


People often exert willpower to choose a more valuable delayed reward over a less valuable immediate reward, but using willpower is taxing and frequently fails. In this research, we demonstrate the ability to enhance self-control (i.e., forgoing smaller immediate rewards in favor of larger delayed rewards) without exerting additional willpower. Using behavioral and neuroimaging data, we show that a reframing of rewards (i) reduced the subjective value of smaller immediate rewards relative to larger delayed rewards, (ii) increased the likelihood of choosing the larger delayed rewards when choosing between two real monetary rewards, (iii) reduced the brain reward responses to immediate rewards in the dorsal and ventral striatum, and (iv) reduced brain activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (a correlate of willpower) when participants chose the same larger later rewards across the two choice frames. We conclude that reframing can promote self-control while avoiding the need for additional willpower expenditure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9786-9791
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 8 2014


  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Reward reframing
  • Temporal discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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