Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 81–93 | Cite as

Self-control and its relation to emotions and psychobiology: evidence from a Day Reconstruction Method study

  • M. Daly
  • R. F. Baumeister
  • L. Delaney
  • M. MacLachlan


This study aimed to ascertain whether self-control predicts heart rate, heart rate variability, and the cortisol slope, and to determine whether health behaviors and affect patterns mediate these relationships. A sample of 198 adults completed the Self-Control Scale (Tangney in J Pers 72:271–322, 2004), and reported their exercise levels, and cigarette and alcohol use. Participants provided a complete account of their emotional experiences over a full day, along with morning and evening salivary cortisol samples and a continuous measure of cardiovascular activity on the same day. High trait self-control predicted low resting heart rate, high heart rate variability, and a steep cortisol slope. Those with high self-control displayed stable emotional patterns which explained the link between self-control and the cortisol slope. The self-controlled smoked less and this explained their low heart rates. The capacity to sustain stable patterns of affect across diverse contexts may be an important pathway through which self-control relates to psychophysiological functioning and potentially health.


Personality Self-control Cortisol Heart rate Heart rate variability Affect variability Day Reconstruction Method 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Daly
    • 1
  • R. F. Baumeister
    • 2
  • L. Delaney
    • 1
    • 4
  • M. MacLachlan
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Stirling Management SchoolStirling UniversityStirlingUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Global HealthTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.University College Dublin Geary InstituteUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  5. 5.School of PsychologyTrinity College DublinDublinIreland

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