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Lecture 4

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PSYC 471
Richard Koestner

PSYC 471 Lecture # 4 Based on the lectures and WIllpower book, you might get the impression that the one thing we really need to think about when we motivate ourselves by setting goals is to make sure we have enough self control, self discipline and will power. So that we can stay focused on our goals, overcome obstacles and so that we can persevere and succeed. • The 2 classes this week will question a simplistic emphasis on generating more and more self control. Both lectures will ask whether in some cases its possible to overdo it, to persist for too long and focus too much attention, to draw forth too much self control? Today talk about elite women's gymnastics and the goals they have, the self control they seem to display and whether there could be problems with over control. Book about the training of gymnasts and figure skaters, how early it starts, how intense and unforgiving it is, how excessive the coaching can be, how parents can have some crazy ideas about for their kids. • This is talking about elite gymnastics and doesn't correspond to recreational gymnastics. • It's very likely that girls who begin in gymnastics probably have a great sense of competence in being able to do new things, enjoy being with the other kids thus making recreational gymnastics a wonderful thing. ◦ Elite gymnastics is a completely different story. ▪ However in the her book, Joan Ryan identifies some gymnasts and figure skaters who seem to have a balanced approach to this sport and seem to have good relationships with coaches, and a few of the coaches actually seem to have the athletes interest at heart. But the majority of the athletes she writes about are horror stories. Slide # 3 Baumeister wrote an earlier book called "Self Regulation Failure" Where he argues that most of the problems that people face in their everyday lives (drug addiction, dropping out of school) at their root is some kind of difficulty with self regulation. He makes a distinction between 2 types of self-regulation failure. 1) One is due to under-regulation 2) One is due to mis-regulation • Examine the self-regulation/self-control of elite gymnasts and ask whether this is a case where self control can go to far. • Self -discipline is definitely put forward as an important virtue that we should all strive for, but there are some psychologists that wonder what we really mean by this and do we really want to encourage our children to constantly show self-discipline and are there some costs to self-discipline. Slide # 4 Story will focus on the 1996 american gymnastics team (dream team/magnificent 7). For the first time ever the americans actually beat the Russians and Romanians and won the gold medal in the team competition. • It was a joyous moment because women's gymnastics is one of the most popular event at the summer Olympics. (winter= women's figure skating) • Millions of kids watch the Olympics and many of the girls watching might think to themselves "I would like to be able to do that". Before the Olympics it was expected that the girl all the way on the right, Shannon Miller(18 years old, considered the greatest american gymnasts ever, she won gold medal overall in the previous Olympics) would win gold again. The yellow arrow, third girl from right Dominique Moshianow(13 years old), an immigrant from Romania was expected to be the surprise star of the Olympics. • One of the things Joan Ryan says is that we shouldn't call this women's gymnastics because for the last 30 years its been called girls gymnastics so that the athletes were getting younger and younger. 10 Years ago they passed a law that you have to be at least 16 years old. But 4 years ago there was very good evidence that the Chinese who won the overall competition probably had 2 athletes who were only 14 years old and who were probably their best performers. • The thing about gymnastics is that you have a real advantage if you are built like a missile, therefore if you are thin, lean and highly flexible you will have greater speed and greater force when flying through the air. • When you become 12-14 years old and go through puberty it can really throw off your ability to fly in the air. • Also the training is so intense, 30-50 hours a week, that many of the girls actually look younger than they are. Sometimes their menstruation is delayed because of the excessive physical exercise. Slide # 5 Girl with the middle arrow, Kerri Strug, was not expected to win any gold medals. • She is 18 years old (although looks younger) • Surprisingly the 2 expected stars were not in a position to win the championship for the Americans. Instead Kerri Strug was in position. • In the women's team competition there are 5 events and after 4 events the Americans are leading narrowly against their arch rival. • All the Americans had made their final vault except for Dominique Moshianow and Kerri Strug. ◦ Depending on how these 2 athletes would perform the Americans would either win the gold medal or the silver medal. ◦ Olympics were in Atlanta. ▪ She needed to get a score of 9.4 and received a score of 9.7. ▪ After her first failed jump she had 30 seconds to decide if she would do the second fault. ▪ She torn 2 ligaments and sprained her ankle (took her months to recover.) ▪ After the event she said she heard something snap and i can't feel my leg. after the first jump ▪ The coach was heard saying shake it off you can do it ▪ Her teammates were heard saying shake it off you can do it. • Because of this courageous and heroic jump she became the hero of the Olympics, made over 1 million dollars in endorsements over the next three months. ◦ She is about 30 years old, works in business and gives motivational talks (25,000$ every time she gives a talk) ◦ Voted sports woman of the year. Slide # 6 Baumeister wrote this but not about Kerri Strug. • He would say this is probably the ultimate example of strength in self-control effectiveness. Slide # 7 It's altering one's responses, inhibiting one's responses and doing so because you have some larger goal or value that you are trying to maintain. * He may say self regulation instead of self-control. • Originally Baumeister used the term self-regulation and defined it as such. • Now he is trying to be more precise, now he uses self-control exclusively in reference to more deliberate, conscious and effortful forms of self-regulation. • We can self regulate in an automatic way as described how our bodies might self regulate our weight without us even being conscious of it. It may slow down our metabolism and might make us think of food. • Thus some self-regulation can be non-conscious. • When we ware talking about deliberate, conscious effortful self-regulation he now uses the term self-control. How is someone able to exercise self-control in this type of situation? • Baumeister would say our greatest capacity is our capacity to deploy our attention. We can focus our attention away from the present moment, away from what just happened and towards something else that can help us persevere. • He uses the word Transcendence. Slide # 8 Transcendence: to describe a particular way of exercising self-control where you see beyond the immediate stimulus environment by focusing on more long range goals that are higher in value. • These higher processes usually involve ◦ Longer time spans ◦ More extensive networks of meaningful associations ◦ More distal and abstract goals. If you are in library studying for this course and reading material is tedious and boring, you are getting tired and want to stop, one of the things you can do is look away from the book and try to remind yourself why you are taking this class, why you are studying this and what your future goals are. • This might help you transcend the momentary impulse to give up on it. Slide # 9 What would be a typical or natural response after Kerry Strug failed on the first fault? • Almost everyone would be worried about their leg, if i jump again will my leg fall off, what type of damage will ensue. • Also likely that she felt upset at herself, the vault is her best event and her first jump was not good, so she could be blaming herself. • She could also be thinking that she let down her coach, team and country. ◦ So there are all types of thoughts that she could be having which would seem perfectly natural. In order to transcend that situation she has to shut those down and find something else that will inspire her to try again. • She is not criticizing herself, how she might of cost her team the gold medal. In stead she is thinking about what she has to do. In the Will Power book, Baumeister does say that some people seem to find that prayer seems to help them transcend a situation. * Certain kinds of religious beliefs have been associated with exercising greater self- control. • Anything that takes you away from the immediate situation and reminds you of longer term goals and values can help you transcend. One of the ways they prepare athletes when they are at a competition is they remind themselves how well prepared they are. • Kerry reminded herself of this and is probably how she was able to make the jump. Slide # 10 Mary Lou Retton a former gymnast was saying how outraged she was at how patronizing all the male callers were. She said that if this was a football player you would be saying how courageous it was but because it is a gymnast you are saying that it was self-hurtful. • She talked about the training of elite gymnasts and how common it is to get injuries and how they train right through the injuries very often. • She talked about how their pain threshold is so high. The way the guys were reacting, maybe its patronizing and maybe there is something sexist about it but when you watch some of these videotapes you feel uncomfortable and you worry that why is it that this poor girl has to make this jump? • There is something about being a part of a team, there is some sort of cultural ethics that almost requires you to jump. Slide # 11 Was this an example of successful self-control or was it something else? Baumeister divides self-control failure into 2 different categories. 1) the most common type of failure is due to under-regulation. 80-90% of our self control problems are due to under-regulation. This means that we are lacking one of the three critical ingredients that you need to exercise self-control effectively. • Either you do not have clear specific standards. • Or you are not monitoring feedback • Or you are lacking in self-control resources and you haven't planned things out well. ◦ If you have a deficit in any of these 3 areas it will lead to under-regulation which will then lead to self-control failure. There is no chance that elite gymnasts suffer from under-regulation. Standards: • Kerry knew she needed a 9.4 and know what that requires. In gymnastics they are constantly providing you feedback and you always know what your specific goal is. You can break it down into all the components. ◦ There is no danger that there is a lack of standards. Monitoring: • You are constantly monitored, gymnastics can be very dangerous so that with the young girls the coaches are watching all the time.Coaches in elite gymnastics are very precise and give constant feedback on whether you did it right or wrong. Over 90% of the comments are about what you did wrong. ◦ It is a feedback rich environment Self-regulatory strength: • One of the best indicators of self-control strength is the ability to delay gratification. There are individual differences where some kids wait 10 minutes and take the 2 doughnuts and when followed up they have better peer relationships, do better in school, do better on standardized tests. There is evidence that better self-control leads to all kinds of positive things later on. ◦ Elite gymnasts are remarkable in their ability to delay gratification so that most of them don't do the things normal teenagers would do. Slide # 12 • Besides for maybe binge eating, in terms of delayed gratification you would have to say that elite gymnasts have no problem with it. • The rest of us do have trouble with under-regulation, we procrastinate and do other things which elite gymnasts don't do. * But there is another kind of self regulation failure. Slide # 13 We can have this type of self-regulation failure too. But would this fit with elite gymnasts? • Besides for under-regulation, Baumeister says that there is also Mis-regulation. ◦ You do everything that is necessary but it doesn't work. There is something misguided or mistaken about what you do. Slide # 14 Baumeiter distinguishes three types (but we will only focus on 2) • They are not mutually exclusive so that most of the examples you can think of probably relates to both of these types. First type = Misunderstood contingencies. • People lack in understanding of what is required or what they are capable of and this leads to an unsuccessful goal pursuit • Baumeister likes to show that self esteem is not such a great attribute, he thinks that self control is far more important. • In a number of experiements he seperates people into low and high self esteem. he then sets up a situation where poeple do a task and they are told that they failed. May even be told that they failed in a way that is insulting. (you couldn't do better than that???) ◦ They are then given another oppurtunity to do a seperate self-regulation task where they have to wager their money on how successfully they wi
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