Contracts, demand characteristics, and self-control

Frederick H. Kanfer, Larry E. Cox, Jerry M. Greiner, Paul Karoly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Describes 3 experiments testing predictions from a conceptualization of self-control that separates commitment (contract) from execution. The cold pressor test provided the experimental procedure for all Ss. In Exp I, with 64 female undergraduates, ice water tolerance was greater with an explicit written contract than with oral instructions conveying the same content. After interpolated experience with the E, Ss who believed they had failed to meet contract conditions tolerated ice water longer than those who believed the E failed to meet conditions. In Exp II, 48 Ss anticipating reinforcement for contract fulfillment tolerated the ice water longer than Ss who were not reinforced or who received reinforcement contingent only on contract making. In Exp III with 96 Ss, examination of the magnitude of intention to tolerate ice water revealed that presence of the aversive cues associated with the task and high probability of demands to fulfill the contract significantly lowered commitments. Delay of onset of the task only weakly (p < .10) affected commitment; short-delay eliciting reduced estimates of tolerance. Results are discussed in relation to demand characteristics and reconceptualization of self-control that stresses the importance of situational variables and Ss' commitments to future action. (35 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-619
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 1974
Externally publishedYes


  • female college students
  • written vs oral contracts vs expectations of reinforcement, self-control, male &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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