Do you have a friend who needs a workout partner before stepping into the gym? Or one who needs a coffee and a study group before cracking open a book for class? This may not be simply a trait of the socialites among us, but of those conserving their self-control for other things; in essence, they are “outsourcing” personal regulation to those around them.
Researchers suggest that we have a limited stock for self-regulation and we likely use friends, family, and partners to support us in achieving goals such as those in academics and fitness. Anyone who has fallen whim to the allure of a study group would claim that they offer the benefits of varying opinions and strategies, opportunities to teach and learn from one another, and the perhaps greatest benefit of all: conversation to prevent you from falling asleep. As a gym-goer, you can claim that a partner helps you through an extra set, or that they’re the only way you can get yourself to the gym at all.
Despite these possible advantages, researches suggest that people who know they have support and use others as the impetus to activity – study, exercising, etc. – spend less effort on the task at hand. When you know you have someone to rely on, the personal motivation is diminished and less is accomplished.
Rather than the synergy of Batman and Robin (or, Shawn and Gus for the Psych fans), this reliance on partnership can result like plans hatched by the Three Stooges.
But don’t worry; it’s not all bad! Despite the possible decrease in accomplishment – less training of your own self-control, as well as a potential decrease in performance – interdependence between people helps to strengthen relationships and is beneficial in its own right. By investing trust in others to help achieve your goals, as well as doing things you might not do alone, both parties can benefit.
I certainly don’t plan on to cut back on my group homework sessions, but I might take an extra second before agreeing when it comes to studying for a final.
By Chris Iversen