Riding Other People's Coattails: Individuals With Low Self-Control Value Self-Control in Other People

Catherine T. Shea, Erin K. Davisson, Gráinne M. Fitzsimons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Two laboratory experiments and one dyadic study of ongoing relationships of romantic partners examined how temporary and chronic deficits in self-control affect individuals' evaluations of other people. We suggest that when individuals lack self-control resources, they value such resources in other people. Our results support this hypothesis: We found that individuals low (but not high) in self-control use information about other people's self-control abilities when judging them, evaluating other people with high self-control more positively than those with low self-control. In Study 1, participants whose self-control was depleted preferred people with higher self-control, whereas nondepleted participants did not show this preference. In Study 2, we conceptually replicated this effect while using a behavioral measure of trait self-control. In Study 3, individuals with low (but not high) self-control reported greater dependence on dating partners with high self-control than on those with low self-control. We theorize that individuals with low self-control may use interpersonal relationships to compensate for their lack of personal self-control resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1036
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • interpersonal relationships
  • self-control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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