People use self-control to risk personal harm: An intra-interpersonal dilemma

Catherine D. Rawn, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


People will smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, binge eat, drink coffee, eat chili peppers, fail tests, steal, ingest illicit drugs, engage in violent and sadistic actions including killing, have sex, and seek to become HIV positive for the sake of interpersonal acceptance. The self-control for personal harm model reconceptualizes behaviors that have both urge and control components as demonstrating either successful or failed self-control, depending on the incipient urge. The model underscores the role of expected social rewards as an important incentive for which people sometimes engage in personally risky and aversive behaviors despite feeling that they would rather avoid the behaviors and attendant harm. Research from diverse perspectives converges to show that risky behaviors, which might on the surface appear to be self-control failures, can in fact require self-control exertion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-289
Number of pages23
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • interpersonal relationships
  • rejection
  • risky behaviors
  • self-control
  • self-destructive behaviors
  • self-regulation
  • social acceptance

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