This project explores the interacting role played by situational factors and individual mental processes in the self-regulation of emotions and behavior. From binge eating to excessive anger, many sources of adverse physical and mental health share a common theme: the inability of individuals to control their own behavior. The goal of this research is to explain why individuals often fail at self-regulation and how they can succeed. According to the analysis presented here, self-regulation typically demands a significant expenditure of mental resources. When those resources are limited in some fashion, the result is a state of affairs we term attentional myopia, in which individuals can focus on only the most salient internal and external cues, to the neglect of more distal stimuli. Their subsequent behavior is then likely to be under the near-exclusive motivational influence of those central cues. This state of attentional narrowing is predicted to lead to disinhibited behavior when salient internal or situational cues serve to promote the behavior in question and enhanced behavioral inhibition when those cues instead suggest restraint.
The specific aims of this project include (1) investigating the ecological validity of the attentional myopia model in real-world setting, (2) examining how dynamic changes in attentional capacity result in alterations in self-regulatory abilities;(3) investigating situational and personality factors that predispose individuals to the effects of narrowed attention on self-regulation;(4) designing and implementing novel laboratory-based interventions to enhance individuals'capacity for self-control;and (5) conducting field studies testing approaches to modify unhealthy behaviors enacted by smokers and overweight dieters. The approach encompasses both individual and environmental sources of pathology and holds implications for the control of behaviors in a variety of health-relevant domains. The ultimate goals of the project are the documentation of maladaptive sources of self-regulation and the identification of factors that lead to successful self-control in areas critical to individuals'mental health and physical well-being.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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Czajkowski, Susan
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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Wagner, Heather Scherschel; Howland, Maryhope; Mann, Traci (2015) Effects of subtle and explicit health messages on food choice. Health Psychol 34:79-82
Wallaert, Matthew; Ward, Andrew; Mann, Traci (2014) Reducing smoking among distracted individuals: a preliminary investigation. Nicotine Tob Res 16:1399-403
Wallaert, Matthew; Ward, Andrew; Mann, Traci (2014) Ask a Busy Person: Attentional Myopia and Helping. J Appl Soc Psychol 44:505-510
Mann, Traci; de Ridder, Denise; Fujita, Kentaro (2013) Self-regulation of health behavior: social psychological approaches to goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychol 32:487-98
Tomiyama, A Janet; Mann, Traci; Vinas, Danielle et al. (2010) Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med 72:357-64