- Published: November 14, 2012
Mary Poppins famously sings this line about sugar to encourage her two young nursery charges to take a dose of medicine. And indeed, a little bit of sweetness can help medicine go down -- whether that medicine is for curing physical ailments or completing some arduous task that is "good for you." Researchers have studied the concept of willpower (or self-control, or delayed gratification) for quite a while. Over the last twenty years, researchers have gained consensus that self-control has a pattern of ego-depletion -- that all self-control tasks draw on the same limited energy source, so that your self control on one task impacts another.
Self-control impacts everyday decision-making, and also patterns of dishonesty and sexual restraint. Gailliot et al (2007) found that willpower and glucose are tied together: that the consumption of sugar(y foods/drinks) regulates self-control. In fact, Danziger et al (2011) found that sugar consumption impacts juror decisions on granting parole: the rate of granting parole is highest at the beginning of session and right after snack/lunch breaks, but decline as a whole.
Perhaps we all need to regulate our nutritional patterns to make sure we have enough sugar throughout the day to make good self-controlled choices: everyday people, criminals, and jurors alike!