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Too much of a good thing? Exploring the inverted‐U relationship between self‐control and happiness

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Journal of Personality

Published online on


Objective Can having too much self‐control make people unhappy? Researchers have increasingly questioned the unilateral goodness of self‐control and proposed that it is beneficial only up to a certain point, after which it becomes detrimental. The little empirical research on the issue shows mixed results. Hence, we tested whether a curvilinear relationship between self‐control and subjective well‐being exists. Method We used multiple metrics (questionnaires, behavioral ratings), sources (self‐report, other‐report), and methods (cross‐sectional measurement, dayreconstruction method, experience sampling method) across six studies (Ntotal = 5,318). Results We found that self‐control positively predicted subjective well‐being (cognitive and affective), but there was little evidence for an inverted U‐shaped curve. The results held after statistically controlling for demographics and other psychological confounds. Conclusion Our main finding is that self‐control enhances subjective well‐being with little to no apparent downside of too much self‐control.