Devil versus angel: When do they shift into action in the face of temptation?

By: Melissa Ferguson,  San Francisco Chronicle
Sun, 08/20/2017

What might cause a person to choose a doughnut for breakfast instead of a bowl of oatmeal?

This piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, explores research into temptation conducted by Melissa Ferguson, Cornell professor of psychology, and Paul Stillman, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at The Ohio State University.

"The metaphor of the devil and angel fits well with how psychologists have explained self-control: the push and pull between our impulsive, emotional system (that draws us toward indulgences) and our deliberative, logical system (that considers the long-term)," the authors write. "But psychologists have also argued that these two systems do not act simultaneously. We conducted a series of new studies to untangle when the devil and the angel show up once you’re confronted with a temptation."

Their work shows that focusing on willpower "may often be too little too late. Instead of steeling oneself against temptation, it may be more fruitful to put in work beforehand – by focusing on the small decisions that can help us avoid tempting impulses altogether," they say.

Read the entire San Francisco Chronicle article here.