The Upsides and Downsides of High Self-Control: Evidence for Effects of Similarity and Situation Dependency


  • Lukas Röseler Orcid
  • Jacqueline Ebert
  • Astrid Schütz Orcid
  • Roy Baumeister Orcid


High trait self-control is generally depicted as favorable. We investigated whether this holds for social perception. Using vignettes, we tested whether a person with high self-control is 1) preferred as a partner for all or only certain social situations, 2) perceived as less likeable than a person with low self-control, 3) liked more if the person is female and the behavior thus fits the sex-stereotype, and 4) perceived differently from a person with low self-control with respect to a wide range of adjectives used to describe personality. Competing theories are presented for each area. Results indicate that although high self-control is associated with a wide range of socially desirable traits, choice of partners 1) depends on the type of situation in which the interaction will occur, 2) depends on the similarity between the respondent and the partner, 3) does not depend on a stereotype match, and 4) does not depend or depends only to a small degree on the partner's high self-control. The perception of individuals with high self-control is thus variable and situationally contingent, and more than a single theory is needed to explain it.