[FROM: Dennis Delprato (092795)]
When Bruce Abbott recently brought up self-control, I
thought of a book I reviewed a few months ago. The review,
to appear in the Psychological Record at some point,
LOGUE, A. W. Self-Control: Waiting Until Tomorrow for What
You Want Today. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995.
Pp. x + 188. ISBN 0-13-803750-7.
According to the assumptive framework on which this
book is based, psychological behavior is output. Thus, the
author takes control as control of output. Furthermore, and
consistent with treating behavior as output, the book is
steeped in the tradition of lineal causality. It is,
therefore, not surprising that by self-control the author
does not mean closed-loop, negative-feedback regulation of
behavior in which behavior is not output but rather control
Behavior theorists have treated self-control, this
book's main topic, in various ways. With the exception of a
few who have operated from an overall framework of
cybernetic or circular causality and negative feedback
regulation, self-control theorists and researchers have
clung to lineal mechanistic causality and by self-control
have meant a form of unidirectional control by which
voluntary behavior is controlled by organisms themselves who
manipulate purported antecedent environmental or cognitive
proximal controlling variables of behavior-as-output.
The subtitle of this book makes it clear that the
author takes the view found in folk psychology that self-
control is exhibited when a behaver turns from the face of a
temptation (e.g., a piece of cake) to receive future rewards
(e.g., a svelte figure). Fundamental is the position that
self-control is identified with delay of gratification and
is contrasted with yielding to temptation, i.e.,
impulsiveness. With this approach to self-control the book
contacts a large literature in behavior analysis, child
psychology, personality, developmental psychology, and other
areas. The basic preparation used in human and nonhuman
research that provides its empirical foundations involves a
paradigm in which self-control is a dependent variable tied
to the behaver's choice of a larger reward that is delayed
or requires more effort over a smaller reward that is less
delayed or requires less effort. The alternative choice to
that considered to reflect self-control is deemed to
The first part of the book covers theory and principles
of self-control. The author argues that impulsiveness is so
readily found because the evolutionary history of organisms
has prepared them to discount more delayed over less delayed
outcomes of behavior. But self-control does develop in
varying degrees without explicit training, and one chapter
covers this. Another chapter reviews literature on
manipulated variables that modulate organisms' relative
choice of larger, delayed rewards and smaller, immediate
The second part of the book deals with various specific
circumstances under the heading of "Applications." This
part covers areas in which laypersons tend to attribute many
difficulties to impulsiveness and, conversely, to associate
socially acceptable behavior with self-control; these
include eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual behavior,
exercise, academic settings, money management, and gambling.
Overall, this book provides a useful introduction to a
popular conception of self-control by incorporating a wide
range of literatures in a readable fashion. However,
readers interested in studying self-regulation as an
inherent characteristic of life processes from conception to
death will have to examine work of authors who have eschewed
open-loop control in favor of closed-loop, negative-feedback
control (e.g., Delprato, 1989; Powers, 1973, 1989; Smith,
1987; Smith & Smith, 1988).
Delprato, D. J. (1989). A paradigm shift in behavior
therapy: From external control to self-control. In W. A.
Hershberger (Ed.), Volitional action: Conation and
control (pp. 449-467). North-Holland: Elsevier.
Powers, W. T. (1973). Behavior: The control of perception.
Powers, W. T. (1989). Living control systems. Gravel Switch,
KY: The Control Systems Group.
Smith, K. U. (1987). Behavioral-physiological foundation of
development. Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser University.
Smith, T. J., & Smith, K. U. (1988, Winter). The cybernetic
basis of human behavior and performance. Continuing the
Conversation, No. 15, pp. 1-28.
(Dennis Delprato, Eastern Michigan University)