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Lay theories of self-control influence judgments of individuals who have failed at self-control


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nicholas Freeman, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, PO Box 1510, Pembroke, NC 28372, USA. E-mail:


Individuals who have failed at self-control are often the targets of negative social judgments. We suggest that in some circumstances, individual differences in lay theories regarding self-control may help account for these reactions. Specifically, people may believe that the ability to exert self-control is either a fixed quantity (entity theory) or a malleable quantity (incremental theory), and these beliefs may influence their social judgments. In the current investigation, we found that whether lay theories of self-control were measured or manipulated, entity views of self-control predicted more negative judgments about a target whose self-control failure was made salient.