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Research Shows the Limits of Mere Willpower

Do you think you can handle temptation on just the strength of your own will-power? If so, you're probably setting yourself up for a crash. That's not just advice from the Bible. It also comes from current scientific research.

Dr. Loran Nordgren, a senior lecturer at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, ran a series of experiments that placed college students in "tempting situations" to smoke, eat junk food, or forgo studying. The research found that we often display what's called a "restraint bias." In other words, we tend to overestimate how much self-control we will have against temptation when we're not in the "heat of the moment." Our "restraint bias" causes us to think that we can handle more temptation than we actually can. Dr. Nordgren warned that "Those who are most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give in to temptation."

How do we deal with out deluded sense of self-control? Dr. Nordgren, who works for a secular university, offered some biblically sound advice: "The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower."

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