Low Self-Control Promotes the Willingness to Sacrifice in Close Relationships

Francesca Righetti*, Catrin Finkenauer, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Although previous theories and research have suggested that human behavior is automatically driven by selfish impulses (e.g., vengeance rather than forgiveness), the present research tested the hypothesis that in close relationships, people's impulsive inclination is to be prosocial and to sacrifice for their partner-to pursue the interests of the partner or of the relationship at some costs for the self. Results from four studies demonstrated that people with low self-control, relative to those with high self-control, reported greater willingness to sacrifice for their close others. Furthermore, Study 4 demonstrated that communal orientation was more strongly associated with sacrifice among participants with low self-control than participants with high self-control. This moderational pattern supports the hypothesis that communal orientation functions as a default approach to sacrifice in the context of close relationships. Taken together, these findings suggest that under certain crucial conditions in close relationships, gut-level impulses are more likely than deliberative considerations to promote prorelationship behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1533-1540
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • close relationships
  • heuristics
  • interpersonal relationships
  • prosocial behavior
  • sacrifice
  • self-control
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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