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Are trait self-control and self-control resources mediators of relations between executive functions and health behaviors?


  • Cyril Forestier Laboratoire Motricité, Interactions, Performance, MIP - EA4334, Le Mans Université, Le Mans, France
  • Margaux de Chanaleilles
  • Roxane Bartoletti
  • Boris Cheval
  • Aïna Chalabaev
  • Thibault Deschamps



self-control resources, trait self-control, inhibition, working memory, cognitive flexibility, health behaviors


This study investigated associations between executive functions (i.e., inhibition, working memory, cognitive flexibility) and individual differences in self-control and health behaviors. We examined whether executive functions predict physical activity, sedentary activity, and healthy and unhealthy diets, and whether trait self-control and self-control resources mediate these associations. Two hundred and eighty-seven participants completed a questionnaire assessing trait self-control and self-control resources, physical activity, sedentary activity, and healthy and unhealthy diets. They also performed three randomly ordered cognitive tasks, a stop-signal task (i.e., inhibition), a letter memory task (i.e., working memory), and a number-letter task (i.e., cognitive flexibility). Structural equation modeling revealed that self-control resources positively predicted physical activity (R2 = .04) and negatively predicted sedentary activity (R2 = .04). Moreover, trait self-control positively predicted a healthy diet (R2 = .11) and negatively predicted an unhealthy one (R2 = .17). However, no evidence was found supporting associations between executive functions and health behaviors, or relations mediated by self-control, despite a significant relation between inhibition and sedentary behavior in a direction opposed to our hypothesis. The findings suggest the importance of trait self-control and self-control resources for health behavior adoption and pave the way for studies exploring the role of the executive functions in an affective context.


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