Self-control: A behavioristic excursion into the lion's den

Frederick H. Kanfer, Paul Karoly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

281 Scopus citations


The concept of 'self-control," until recently embedded in intrapsychic personality theories and banished from strict behavioral accounts of human activity, is considered from the perspective of a closed-loop learning paradigm. In considering self-regulatory and self-control behavior, an attempt is made (1) to extricate these concepts from the realm of philosophical debate on the image of man, (2) to point to their growing relevance in the context of rapidly changing environments, (3) to provide behavioral definitions and a tentative and testable process model, and (4) to outline their clinical (therapeutic) implications. The current conceptualization emphasizes (a) the contractual elements in self-control, (b) the critical importance of insuring the link between intentions (often of a verbal variety) and behavioral execution, and (c) the interdependence of external and internal controlling variables. In a larger context, the paper seeks to show how man's "selfreflectiveness" can be incorporated within an empirically based behavior theory. Suggestions for research are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-416
Number of pages19
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1972
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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