Recommendation

Strategies for self control: German translation and evaluation of the Self Control Strategy Scale

ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Eleanor Miles, Kaitlyn Werner and Sebastian Bürgler
A recommendation of:
toto

Self-Control beyond inhibition. German Translation and Quality Assessment of the Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS)

Abstract
Keywords
Submission: posted 13 July 2023
Recommendation: posted 04 December 2023, validated 04 December 2023
Cite this recommendation as:
Dienes, Z. (2023) Strategies for self control: German translation and evaluation of the Self Control Strategy Scale. Peer Community in Registered Reports, . https://rr.peercommunityin.org/PCIRegisteredReports/articles/rec?id=498

Recommendation

Self-control has shown to be a trait related to beneficial outcomes, including health, academic achievement and relationship quality. It is mostly understood as the ability to surpress immediate urges in order to achieve long-term goals, such as not watching another episode and therefore reaching a healthy amount of sleep. An emerging perspective on self-control shows that there is broader variety in applied strategies, such as removing oneself from a tempting situation, or reminding oneself of one's long-term goal, or reinterpreting the temptation.
 
Katzir et al. (2021) developed a novel instrument, the Self-Control Strategy Scale, that measured the tendency to engage in eight such strategies. In the current study, Roth et al. (2023) propose to translate the scale into German and assess its psychometric properties. Further, they will determine which strategies are related to particular outcomes that may be beneficial; for example, amount of physical activity engaged in, how healthy the diet is, exam performance and life satisfaction.
 
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over two rounds of in-depth review by the recommender and at least two expert reviewers, before issuing in-principle acceptance.
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/s7qwk
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 

References
 
1. Katzir, M., Baldwin, M., Werner, K. M., & Hofmann, W. (2021). Moving beyond inhibition: Capturing a broader scope of the self-control construct with the Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS). Journal of Personality Assessment, 103, 762-776. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2021.1883627
 
2. Roth, L. H. O., Jankowski, J., Clay, G., Meindl, D., Vogt, L.-M., Wagner, V., Nordmann, A., Stenzel, L., Freiman, O., Mlynski, C., & Job, V. (2023). Self-Control beyond inhibition. German Translation and Quality Assessment of the Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS). In principle acceptance of Version 3 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/s7qwk

Conflict of interest:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

Evaluation round #2

DOI or URL of the report: https://osf.io/r36ug

Version of the report: 2

Author's Reply, 30 Nov 2023

Decision by ORCID_LOGO, posted 30 Nov 2023, validated 30 Nov 2023

The two reviews I have in are largely positive about your revision, but have a few remaining queries.  I look forward to your point by point response.

 

best

Zoltan

Reviewed by , 17 Nov 2023

In response to my comments a) and b), the authors have more clearly separated out in the Design Table and the introduction the different aims of testing convergent and discriminant validity (Aim 2) and testing which strategies are relevant in different domains (Aim 3). I found this made the different aims easier to understand and interpret, and I had a better understanding of how each aim mapped on to the relevant analyses. I have two comments about these revised sections:

1) The introduction now more clearly explains and distinguishes the different aims and contributions of the study. Personally though I think some of what was cut out of the section "relevant self-control outcomes" I actually found useful and would prefer to see added back in! As Dr. Werner highlighted when advising how to cut this section down, it was slightly redundant to discuss the general predictive value of self-control individually for each behaviour. However, it was helpful to “emphasize evidence for strategies across domains (especially if there are differences like in Katzir et al.)”. There were some useful and interesting citations in this section suggesting evidence that different strategies might work for different behaviours, but these have now been cut out. To me these citations helped to strengthen the rationale for exploring all of those different behaviours in relation to the SCSS and I’d consider adding back in.

2) Aim 3, i.e. testing which strategies are relevant in different domains, has now been given a specific hypothesis in the design table and introduction; “All strategies are significantly related to all outcome measures”. Does this accurately describe what the authors expect? To me it seems like Aim 3 is quite exploratory - the authors generally believe the SCSS should explain a significant amount of variance in each of the outcomes (although I would not be surprised if this is not true for some variables that are less closely related to self-control, such as income), but don’t have specific hypotheses about which outcomes will be most strongly predicted, or which strategies will best predict different outcomes. But this hypothesis seems to explicitly predict no variation. There seems to be good reason to expect at least some variation across strategies and outcomes. For example, as the authors discuss in response to the other reviewers, acceptance may be a less effective strategy; as I suggest above, some outcomes such as income are less closely related to self-control, so it would not surprise me if the SCSS does not predict everything. It seems a more exploratory hypothesis might be more appropriate.

I am happy with the authors’ replies to my comments c) and d), which are responsive and thorough. The additional detail provided for sample size and effect size determinations, the addition of specific numeric thresholds for interpretation, the decision to remove the Stroop task, and the change to how the study is structured into different time points address the issues I raised.

As a final minor point, the abstract does not really do justice to the contributions of the research, in my opinion. The abstract explains that the studies will further previous work on self-control strategies, but not why this is valuable or how it will usefully add to our knowledge. The contribution that I will find most personally interesting is not described at all in the abstract (i.e. the data will tell us whether some strategies are more helpful for some outcomes than others). So I might consider rewriting, but it's up to the authors how they want to present their study and I am happy to leave this decision to them.

I spotted one typo: ‘goal-term goal’ on p6 should presumably be ‘long term goal’.

Again I hope these comments are helpful and am happy to clarify anything.

Eleanor Miles

Reviewed by , 27 Oct 2023

Title: Self-Control Beyond Inhibition. German Translation and Quality Assessment of the Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS)

I am very happy with how the authors addressed the points raised by the reviewers and the editor. I think the reviewers also incorporated many of the suggestions made by myself in an effective way and I can understand that they chose to not incorporate some of my more elaborate ideas. 

I only have one remaining minor point regarding the assessment of the model fit (p. 22): The authors now chose stricter cutoffs for all the fit indices (CFI, TLI, RMSEA, and SRMR) but there is still no reference or justification for these cutoffs. In the last round of reviews, I wrote that stricter cutoffs for the RMSEA and SRMR seem justified, as they align better with what Katzir et al. (2021) found in their original study (see Table 3, p. 6). However, in the same table, in none of the samples, their reported CFI and TLI would be at or above the stricter cutoffs of .95 that the authors now chose for their study. I don't think it makes sense to aim for such strict cutoffs for the CFI and TLI if the original study was nowhere close to them. As I've written in the last round of reviews, I don't necessarily think that one must adhere to the strictest cutoffs, but that they should be reasonably justified. 

As another quick note, there seems to be a small typo on p. 6, where it reads "goal-term goal".

Overall, I still think the study is very promising (now even more so) and well thought out and I am looking forward to reading how it turned out. I especially look forward to a shortened version of the SCSS.


Evaluation round #1

DOI or URL of the report: https://osf.io/aup93/?view_only=aec599213dac41d995ed8b702a6cfade

Version of the report: 1

Author's Reply, 23 Oct 2023

Decision by ORCID_LOGO, posted 14 Oct 2023, validated 14 Oct 2023

I now have reports from three expert reviewers who have each been very thorough, thoughtful, and constructive. They are generally positive about your ambitious project to translate and validate the SCSS. One key issue to address, emphasized by Miles, is to make sure there is an exact mapping between theories emphasized in the introduction and the inferential chain leading to conclusions, as laid out in the Design Table. In fact, all thee reviewers in some way made suggestions about the framing of the study. The third reviewer wonders about some of the cut offs; for myself, I don't do this sort of work, but I wondered if you could contextualize the use of .5 and .1 for R sq for divergent and convergent validity - is there any reason why these should be taken as in general meaningful, regardless of the raw units and nature of the variables?  Also could you spell out exactly how you will use AIC. Of course, deal with all the reviewers' suggestions in a point by point fashion. I look forward to receiving your revision.

Reviewed by , 10 Oct 2023

In my opinion, this is a valuable and interesting piece of research which makes multiple useful contributions to the literature on self-control. However, I felt that in the current version of the proposal, some of the information I need to fully evaluate the protocol is missing.

Specifically, one of the key issues I am asked to pay attention to at Stage 1 is “Is there an exact mapping between the theory, hypotheses, sampling plan (e.g. power analysis, where applicable), preregistered statistical tests, and possible interpretations given different outcomes?” Currently, the theory and hypotheses in the abstract and introduction do not clearly map onto the sampling plan, tests and interpretations in the Design Table. The abstract and introduction state three aims: The design table focuses on Aims 1 and 2 (translate and validate the SCSS), but the introduction focuses on Aim 3 (test whether the SCSS can predict behaviour in new domains or using improved measures). Aims 1 and 2 are hardly mentioned in the introduction and the word ‘validity’ is not used. 

I think two sets of changes are needed here, a) expand the introduction so that theory and hypotheses are presented for Aims 1 and 2, and b) expand the Design Table so that sampling plan, tests and interpretations are presented for Aim 3. 

I also have some briefer comments on c) the current information in the Design Table and d) whether the three aims could more usefully be tested sequentially rather than in parallel.

a)       Expand the introduction so that theory and hypotheses are presented for Aims 1 and 2

The work planned under Aims 1 and 2 extends the original SCSS paper in multiple ways, e.g. replicating the original study in a different cultural sample and extending the validation to include multiple different self-report measures related to self-control. However, the introduction focuses primarily on Aim 3 (i.e. measures of behaviour). This means that some significant contributions of the paper are not mentioned, and also means that it is difficult to evaluate some of the analyses in the Design Table because a rationale has not been given.

b)      Expand the Design Table so that sampling plan, tests and interpretations are presented for Aim 3

In the Design Table, measures of behaviour are included within the row ‘Predictive validity’, with the hypothesis that “All subscales combined explain a relevant amount of variance in self-control related measures”. This frames these measures as part of Aim 2, as a test of whether the SCSS is a valid measure of self-control with the ability to predict relevant behaviours. 

However, the introduction and the abstract describe the research questions related to measures of behaviour differently. The introduction explains “we aim to shed light on the relevance of the different strategies of the SCSS in these domains”. The aim here seems to be to explore whether different behaviours are predicted by different strategies. The introduction presents this as the primary contribution of the planned study, and separates it into a different aim (Aim 3). While I agree that this is a very valuable and interesting question, it seems to be a different question than the one answered by the planned analysis in the Design Table.

I experienced a similar problem with the other included questionnaire measures. In the Design Table, most of these are discussed under ‘Discriminant validity’ (but the corresponding introduction section ‘Self-Control Related Cognitions and Personality’ does not discuss these measures as tests of discriminant validity; the research question is framed more in terms of investigating individual differences). The measures related to mental health are instead discussed under ‘Predictive validity’, but the rationale under “Self-Control Impeding Conditions” seems more about investigating which strategies are responsible for previously observed associations with self-control, although a clear research question is not stated.

Because the introduction and the Design Table do not clearly match, this made some aspects of the proposal difficult to evaluate. I cannot comment on whether the measures used are appropriate to test the research questions, because I do not fully understand all of the research questions (especially those for Aim 3). I cannot comment on whether there will be sufficient data to test hypotheses about whether different behaviours are predicted by different strategies, because the Design Table does not specify analyses testing these hypotheses (but it seems like a key aim of this project is to test such hypotheses).

These problems could be helped by including a more comprehensive Design Table which maps planned analyses exactly on to specific research questions described in the introduction (in some cases, the research questions themselves are not yet clearly specified in the introduction, so this would require more detail in both sections). This additional detail would help me to evaluate the protocol. It would be understandable for many of the research questions or planned analyses for Aim 3 to be exploratory, e.g., the authors may not have specific predictions at this stage about which strategies within the SCSS will predict which behaviours. 

c)       I have some specific comments about the information in the current version of the Design Table. I will note that I have not commented on some aspects of this table which are outside my area of expertise (e.g., factor analyses).

Column “Rationale for deciding the sensitivity of the test for confirming or disconfirming the hypothesis”: I do not find statements such as “beyond all common sample size requirements for retest reliability” very helpful, as they are difficult to evaluate. I would suggest giving more detail. Can details also be provided on how the effect sizes were determined in cases where power analyses are included? The linked OSF pages show the calculations, but do not explain how the parameters were chosen.

Row “Convergent validity”: The Stroop task measures something so different from the SCSS that I am not sure it is logical to use it as a test of convergent validity. As the authors point out, recent work suggests that a lack of relationship might be the most likely outcome, and I agree with the authors that this would most likely indicate “that Stroop performance is not a valid measure of self-control”. Thus it doesn’t seem quite right to frame this task as a test of convergent validity.

Column “Interpretation given different outcomes”: various criteria here are underspecified. For example, the criteria contain the terms ‘enough’, ‘a few’, ‘too much’, and ‘a relevant amount’, when it is unclear exactly how much variance will be considered ‘too much’ (etc).

d)      Given that multiple samples are planned, have the authors considered testing Aims 1 and 2 first before testing Aim 3? In other words, performing factor analysis and validation of the scale in the initial samples, before going on to adapt the scale if necessary for use in predicting a broader range of behaviours in subsequent samples?

I hope these comments help to develop the proposal constructively and I am happy to clarify any comments which are unclear.

Eleanor Miles

Reviewed by , 12 Oct 2023

Summary

Thank you for the opportunity to review this registered report on the German translation and validation of the Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS). Before I begin, I want to be transparent that I am a co-author on the original scale development paper. 

Generally speaking, I think this is a very ambitious and thorough attempt at translating and validating the SCSS, and I commend the authors for doing this important work. After carefully reading through this proposal, my primary concerns are with (a) the framing and motivation for the study (e.g., why is this work important?), and (b) the measures used to test divergent and convergent validity. Below I provide my detailed notes that came to mind as I was reading through the manuscript, but I’ll summarize the points here.

With respect to the framing of the study, I found the introduction to be quite lengthy and could’ve been described in a far more succinct and compelling manner. As one notable example, I’m not sure the authors need to discuss in great detail why self-control is important for each individual domain and these several pages can be combined into 1-2 paragraphs without losing any of the key points. While I appreciate that there are likely stylistic differences motivating some of my comments, I would generally encourage the authors work on better selling why this work is important and very much needed (because it is!) without getting lost in a laundry list of constructs.

As for my second point regarding divergent and convergent validity, I’m not entirely convinced that the measures used for these purposes are really all that informative. As noted below, there is quite extensive evidence now that there is a lack of convergence between self-report and behavioural measures of self-control. Thus, a lack of an association in this case wouldn’t necessarily say much about the quality of the SCSS (at least I don’t think). Similar with the Brief Self-Control Scale. This scale is widely understood as being a poor measure of self-control, though everyone uses is because that’s what’s widely available/popular. I’m not really sure what the best solution is here, as there really aren’t many good measures of self-control or a comprehensive measure of strategies to compare to. Should the authors proceed with these particular measures, I would suggest toning down the interpretation of a lack of an association as evidence against the SCSS because it could just as likely (if not more likely) be problems with these comparative measures. 


Detailed Notes

In the introduction, when explaining self-control using the exercise after work example, the authors state: “In this situation, they can exert willpower to override the immediate desire in favor of their long-term goal.” This is a bit picky, but I would refrain from using the term “willpower” here, since it is such a vague term that has different meanings to different people (e.g., sometimes it’s referred to as a strategy, sometimes it’s used as a synonym for self-control, etc.). Instead, I think the authors can make the same general point by simply saying something like “In this situation, they need to figure out a way to override the immediate desire to hang out on the couch in favour of successfully pursuing their longer-term goal to exercise more.” 


Then, to make the introduction more succinct, I would recommend collapsing paragraphs 2 & 3. For example, in the proceeding paragraph (paragraph 2) the authors could say something like: “Historically, research has focused on a person’s ability to exert willpower to successfully resolve conflicting desires [add key citations]. However, the concept of “willpower” has recently been called into question (e.g., Fujita et al., 2020; Inzlicht & Friese, 2020; Werner et al., 2022) and instead researchers have focused on more tractable strategies people can use to achieve their long-term goals. Indeed, prior research shows that people might instead set up rewards or punishments for themselves…[more generally describe the wealth of prior research examining other strategies; e.g., Mischel et al., 1989]. As a way to measure the vast range of strategies people can use to achieve their goals, Katzir et al. (2021) developed a novel scale that assesses some of the most primary strategies used in desire regulation across different domains.”


Under the heading “The Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS)”, I would recommend stating the scales name again in the first sentence – i.e., “The Self-Control Strategy Scale (SCSS) was developed…” I realize this may feel redundant since you have the scale name as the header of the section, but referring to the scale only as “the scale” in the written text feels a bit too informal. 


Within the section on the “Eight Strategies of Self-Control” the authors mention that the SCSS can be grouped into three categories, including anticipatory control, down regulation of temptation, and behavioural inhibition. I’d encourage the authors to double check the original scale development paper, but I believe that was the original hypothesized factor structure but it was not supported in the data and instead the eight strategies are technically independent. While I still think these distinctions are theoretically interesting, I would recommend that the authors here make it clear where these three categories come from and whether or not they were supported in the original model from Katzier et al. (2021) (e.g., it’s a bit confusing that you mention these three categories here and then jump to saying “eight factor model” in the following section). 


In the section “Evidence for the SCSS”, the authors give a nice summary of the many strategy associations across domains. Toward the middle/end of the section, they talk about how some strategies may be adaptive or maladaptive in some domains. I just wanted to point out that this is actually consistent with recent theorizing on self-control, which maps accordingly onto similar findings in the context of emotion regulation strategies (see Werner & Ford, 2023 for one such overview). I just wanted to point this out in case it is helpful for the authors’ thinking, and more generally making sense as to why these patterns may have emerged.


For the section “relevant self-control outcomes”, the authors do a very thorough job describing in-detail the role of self-control in different key domains. That said, given that the introduction is quite lengthy already, I wonder if there is a way to make this section more succinct. For example, I don’t think it’s really necessary to describe how each domain is relevant for self-control, as they are all extensively studied in the literature. One recommendation would be to simply lean into the fact that self-control is highly relevant across several important life domains, including health behaviour (e.g., give key citation), performance at school and work, interpersonal relationships, and pro-environmental behaviour. In this way, you would give key citations relevant for each domain. You could then say something like “Consistent with Katzir et al. (2021), prior research provides support for the effectiveness of certain strategies in particular domains. For example, [give a few key examples.]” Statedly differently, I would emphasize evidence for strategies across domains (especially if there are differences like in Katzir et al.) and focus much less on the general role/importance of self-control in each context. Over all, my point here is not to change the message or remove any of the base content per se, but rather help make this section more succinct (e.g., I envision all of this being maybe 1-2 paragraphs at most).


Related to the above point, for a more recent example of strategies in the context of school performance, I’d recommend checking out Duckworth, White, et al. (2016) where they empirically test the benefits of situational strategies.


For the section on metacognition about self-control, I would refrain from using the term you are defining in the definition itself (e.g., you use the term “metacognitive” twice in the definition). I would rephrase in a way that is more descriptive.


Relatedly, the authors state “in order to use a broad set of self-control strategies, it is vital to know about them and how to use them.” While I agree with this statement, it’s not clear to me that this meta-cognition scale exactly does this. Specifically, this scale does not assess one’s knowledge about specific strategies (if anything, the SCSS kind of assesses this information), but rather if people believe they generally use several strategies (i.e., it does not, however, measure whether these beliefs are actually correct). Since there is already so much ambiguity in the field, especially regarding strategies, willpower, and self-control more broadly (e.g., see Werner & Ford, 2023; Werner et al., 2022 for some overviews, among others), I would strongly urge the authors to be exceptionally careful with how they describe different constructs, both in this specific instance and in general. 


Case in point re: conceptual ambiguity:  in the very beginning of the introduction, the authors talk about willpower as a strategy. In the section on lay theories of willpower, they further state: “Lay beliefs about willpower refer to people’s beliefs about the nature of self-control (or willpower)” therefore suggesting that willpower = self-control more broadly. 


The section on personality is quite sparse and it’s not clear at this stage of the manuscript why this is included. Assuredly, there is far more connections between personality and self-control, simply because of its overlap with conscientiousness and grit (at minimum), yet that is not mentioned here. I’m not necessarily saying that this paragraph needs to be enhanced, but rather I would encourage the authors to consider whether it’s really needed, especially given my earlier comments re: being more succinct in selling the importance of the work being done.


Regarding the section on “Common measures of self-control”, it is important to note that just because something is “classic” and everyone uses them doesn’t inherently mean they accurately represent the construct of interest. For example, the limitations of the BSCS have been widely discussed (e.g., Wennerhold & Friese, 2023)  and it’s not even clear that this is a measure of self-control per se. Similar to the stroop task, which was actually not designed as a measure of inhibition despite psychologists using it as such (see Werner et al., 2022 for some discussion on this). For these two measures specifically, I’m not sure a lack of an association between the SCSS and either measure would indicate the measure is “useless” as the authors state in the table at the beginning of the manuscript. This is especially true for the Stroop task, as prior research consistently finds there is very little or no association between self-report and behavioural measures in the context of self-regulation and self-control (e.g., Dang et al., 2020; Lennerhold & Friese, 2020; Saunders et al., 2018; Eisenberg et al., 2019). Although there is less empirical critique of the BSCS, at the very least,  I’m not sure it is appropriate to include the Stroop task here as a measure of convergent validity. 


Similar to the personality section, the section on “Self-control impeding conditions” is quite sparse given the wealth of literature in this space. Again, I would urge the authors to make this introduction far more succinct so that the importance of this research really comes across.

 

Again, thank you for this opportunity to review this work. I appreciate the authors taking on this important task, and I'd be delighted to assist in the development of this work in any way that I can. 

Regards,

Kaitlyn M. Werner, PhD
NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Center for Translational Neuroscience
University of Oregon

Reviewed by , 02 Oct 2023

Title: Self-Control Beyond Inhibition. German Translation and Quality Assessment of the Self-Control Strategies Scale (SCSS).

 

The proposed study aims to translate the Self-Control Strategies Scale (SCSS; Katzir et al., 2021) into German and validate this translation, while making notable extensions to the original paper, for example, by including a wider array of outcomes. In my opinion, it is crucially important to update the self-report measures used in the field of self-control research. The by far most commonly used self-control related scale, the Brief Self-Control Scale (Tangney et al., 2004), has clear flaws, some of which are mentioned in the report. Notable flaws include that the results on the factor structure as well as psychometric properties of the scale are mixed (Manapat et al., 2021). Furthermore, the scale is focused on the outcome of successful self-control, which is, for example, evident in the items “I am lazy” (reverse-coded) or “I am able to work effectively towards long-term goals”. Subsequently, the BSCS gives little insight into the mechanisms on how those outcomes are achieved (Grund & Carstens, 2019, see also Bürgler et al., 2022). The SCSS offers valuable insight into such mechanisms by highlighting the self-control strategies people use to achieve self-control success. Therefore, I would argue that scales such as the SCSS should be used more often, which makes translating them an important endeavor. The proposed study aims to do just that, while also functioning as both a replication (in parts) as well as a meaningful extension of the initial paper by Katzir et al. (2021). Furthermore, this proposed study does not only advance the field by translating and validating a scale, but also has important theoretical implications, by investigating the associations between different self-control strategies and other variables (e.g., important outcomes relating to nutrition, physical activity, pro-environmental behaviors etc.). There is much to like about the proposed study besides the generally important aim, such as the commitment to open science, the sound proposed design, hypotheses, and analyses, and the inclusion of additional outcome variables and personality scales that were not included in Katzir et al. (2021). However, I do have some issues with certain parts of the proposed study, and I have some suggestions that might strengthen the novelty and impact of it.

 

Major points

1. While I generally like the SCSS, there is one larger issue I have with the scale, which also directly applies to this proposed study. The scale is heavily focused on dealing with temptations/desires. This is apparent in the introduction of the scale, in which self-control conflicts are described as “[…] a conflict that arises when you face a temptation/desire (e.g., our favorite dessert, going out with friends, sales in our favorite store, etc.) when in pursuit of a long-term goal (e.g., maintaining our health, being a good parent, excelling at work/school, saving money, being a faithful spouse, etc.) […]”, Katzir et al., 2021, p. 5. Furthermore, many of the individual items directly refer to temptations, for example, “I seek out situations in my life so that I will not face temptations” (Katzir et al., 2021, p. 5). Self-control, however, also includes initiating or persisting in aversive but goal-directed activities (e.g., getting off the couch to work out and not quitting after just a few minutes; see, for example, Bürgler et al., 2021; Hennecke et al., 2019; Hoyle & Davisson, 2016). The focus on temptations of the SCSS therefore limits the applicability of the scale, as it leaves out important areas of self-control. For certain strategies it would be difficult to change this focus on temptations, as (nearly) every item used is specifically worded around dealing with temptations (e.g., for “Situation Selection/Stimulus Control”). However, one approach the authors might consider (I want to clearly state that this is merely a suggestion and not a necessity for the scale to be valuable) is to reword the temptation-focused items to shift the focus from dealing with temptations to a more general description of successful self-control (the authors could, for example, reword the item “I seek out situations in my life so that I will not face temptations” to something along the lines of “I seek out situations in my life that make successful self-control easier for me.”). Such items could be added in addition to the non-reworded versions of these items, so the original wordings would not be lost. For other strategies, however, the focus on temptations is less pronounced or completely absent (e.g., “Reward”). Therefore, I would argue to at least change the introduction to the scale so that it also introduces the concept of self-control conflicts as possibly relating to initiating or persisting in aversive activities (see, for example, the introduction used in the Metacognition in Self-Control Scale; Bürgler et al., 2022). This way, at least certain strategies of the scale could be used to investigate self-control conflicts not directly related to temptations. Furthermore, I think the introduction of the SCSS is fairly long and includes non-essential information, so rewriting it could be beneficial in multiple ways.

2. One important variable that I felt was missing in Katzir et al. (2021) and also in the proposed study is habit strength/behavioral automaticity (as measured with the SRBAI; Gardner, 2012; Gardner et al., 2012). There seems to be a considerable association between certain measures of self-control and beneficial habits (e.g., related to nutrition, physical exercise, and studying, see, for example, Adriaanse et al., 2014; Galla & Duckworth, 2015; Gillebaart & Adriaanse; 2017, see also Gillebaart & De Ridder, 2015). Furthermore, habits play a major role in most (likely all) outcome measures of the proposed study (e.g., Gardner et al., 2011; Wood & Neal, 2016). I think it could be fruitful to assess habit-strength related to (at least some of) the outcomes, to, for example, investigate if the SCSS (or certain self-regulatory strategies included in it) are associated with stronger beneficial habits. Furthermore, it would be interesting to analyze if habit strength mediates the effects of the SCSS (or separate strategies of the SCSS) on relevant outcomes, similar to how habit strength mediated the effects of the BSCS on the outcomes in the aforementioned studies. Luckily, the SRBAI has only 4 items, so it can be included fairly easily.

3. In terms of personality variables, I think the Multidimensional Self-Control Scale (MSCS; Nilsen et al., 2020) might be worth considering. The scale differentiates between six dimensions of self-control (procrastination, attentional control, impulse control, emotional control, goal orientation, and self-control strategies) as well as two higher order factors (inhibition and initiation). Having a more fine-grained assessment of individual differences in self-control could help to disentangle correlations between self-regulatory strategies (full SCSS and single strategies) and dimensions of self-control (as assessed with the MSCS). Self-control is a highly complex construct with several layers, which means that such findings could be relevant for the field.

4. Katzir et al. (2021) reported disappointing findings on the strategy “Acceptance”: “[…] we were quite surprised that acceptance was negatively associated with the BSCS, all other strategies, and most outcomes (with the exception of distance from ideal weight)”, p. 12. Katzir et al. (2021) furthermore wrote: “It is possible that our acceptance items do not appropriately capture acceptance and are interpreted by participants as giving into temptation. It is also possible, however, that people do not benefit from acceptance because using it may lead to a cycle of self-control failure by normalizing such failure (De Witt Huberts et al., 2012; Prinsen et al., 2018). The nature of the relation between acceptance and self-control awaits future research”. I would have liked the authors of the proposed study to address these limitations and calls for future research more directly.

5. One relevant limitation of the SCSS is its length. Especially for fields outside the immediate area of self-control research, it may simply not be feasible to use such an extensive scale and researchers might then just default to using other self-control related scales, which would likely be the Brief Self-Control Scale (Tangney et al. 2004). Therefore, a major contribution to the field could be to create a shortened version of the scale. This shortened version might include ~2-3 items per strategy and it might also leave out certain strategies that showed less encouraging results, such as the strategy “Acceptance” (see point 4.).

6. I wondered about the cutoffs used to assess the model fit of the scale. The authors write “Model fit will be seen as sufficient with CFI > .90, TLI > .90, RMSEA < .10, and SRMR < .10.” (p. 22), without giving any reference or justification for these values. Here, more stringent cutoffs are possible, for example, CFI ≥ .95, TLI ≥ .95, RMSEA ≤ .06, and SRMR ≤ .08 (Hu & Bentler, 1999; but see also Kyndt & Onghena, 2014). I don’t necessarily think that one must adhere to these stricter cutoffs, but, looking at Table 3 in Katzir et al. (2021, p. 6) it shows that they report fit indices that seem to be more in line with these more stringent cutoffs, at least for the RMSEA and SRMR. I would have appreciated some sort of justification for how the specific cutoff values were chosen.

 

Minor Points/Suggestions

7. Katzir et al. (2021) note in the limitations section of their paper: “Another shortcoming is that we only used self-report measures to assess self-control related outcomes.” (p. 12). In the proposed study, many of the outcome variables are still self-reports (e.g., “Healthy Diet” “Physical Activity”, and “Sleep Procrastination” pp. 18), which is perfectly fine. Importantly, objective measures such as grades are also used, which I highly appreciate. Other measures, however, are somewhere in between, such as “Steps” and “Screen Time”. They could be described as objective, because they are assessed by the smartphone, but participants then report these numbers themselves, therefore, they could still be subject to, for example, false reporting and demand characteristics. This problem could be alleviated by having participants provide screenshots to verify their reports. I appreciate the fact that this will come with additional effort and might introduce some data security and privacy concerns that would need to be addressed. However, it might be worthwhile, as objective measures (in addition to subjective ones) are needed in this line of research (e.g., Smyth et al., 2022). 

8. Regarding the translation process: Seeing that you aim to undertake multiple studies with thousands of participants, I would suggest running a quick pilot-study (N = ~25-50) with the translated items to confirm that people understand the items and to leave them the option to give feedback on possible points of confusion. It is especially important that the somewhat lengthy introduction is understood well by the participants, even more so if you choose to reword it, as I suggested in point 1.

9. I am not quite sure about the rationale for the cutoff of 35,000 regarding the average steps per day (p. 18). While 35,000 steps is surely unreasonably high for a monthly average, I would have still liked a justification of this number. 

10. Goal importance: I appreciate that this control variable is assessed for three of the outcome variables (healthy diet, screen time reduction, and pro-environmental behavior, see Table 2). However, I did not quite understand why these outcomes were chosen and not the others as well (e.g., physical activity). As the authors themselves report, Katzir et al. (2021) wrote that “In some cases the effectiveness of a strategy also depended on goal importance, e.g., pre-commitment and behavioral inhibition were only positively related to exercise if exercise was considered an important goal.” (as it is written in the report on p. 9). It seems crucial to me to assess goal importance (or to recruit people for which one can very reasonably assume that the goal in question is important, which might be the case for students and academic achievement), because if a person would rate a goal as “1 = not at all important”, it begs the question if one could even call it a matter of self-control.

11.  I have some suggestions for additional literature that you might consider relevant regarding the following aspects:

- Self-control strategies in general: Hennecke et al. 2019; Fujita et al., 2020; Lopez et al., 2021.

- Financial self-control: Peetz & Davydenko 2022.

- Domain-specificity of self-control and use self-regulatory strategies (pp. 8): Wenzel et al., 2022; 2023.

- Pro-environmental behavior and self-control/self-control strategies (p. 11): Kolbuszewska et al., 2022; Nguyen et al., 2019; Milyavskaya, 2022.

 

References

Adriaanse, M. A., Kroese, F. M., Gillebaart, M., & De Ridder, D. T. (2014). Effortless inhibition: Habit mediates the relation between self-control and unhealthy snack consumption. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 444. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00444

Bürgler, S., Hoyle, R. H., & Hennecke, M. (2021). Flexibility in using self-regulatory strategies to manage self-control conflicts: The role of metacognitive knowledge, strategy repertoire, and feedback monitoring. European Journal of Personality, 35(6), 861–880. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890207021992907

Bürgler, S., Kleinke, K., & Hennecke, M. (2022). The Metacognition in Self-Control Scale (MISCS). Personality and Individual Differences 199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2022.111841

Fujita, K., Orvell, A., & Kross, E. (2020). Smarter, Not Harder: A Toolbox Approach to Enhancing Self-Control. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7(2), 149-156. https://doi.org/10.1177/2372732220941242

Galla, B. M., & Duckworth, A. L. (2015). More than resisting temptation: Beneficial habits mediate the relationship between self-control and positive life outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(3), 508–525. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000026

Gardner, B. (2012). Habit as automaticity, not frequency. European Health Psychologist, 14(2), 32-36.

Gardner, B., Abraham, C., Lally, P., & de Bruijn, G. J. (2012). Towards parsimony in habit measurement: Testing the convergent and predictive validity of an automaticity subscale of the Self-Report Habit Index. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-9-102

Gardner, B., de Bruijn, G. J., & Lally, P. (2011). A systematic review and meta-analysis of applications of the self-report habit index to nutrition and physical activity behaviours. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 42(2), 174-187. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-011-9282-0

Gillebaart, M., & Adriaanse, M. A. (2017). Self-control predicts exercise behavior by force of habit, a conceptual replication of Adriaanse et al. (2014). Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 190. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00190

Grund, A., & Carstens, C. A. (2019). Self-control motivationally reconsidered: “Acting” self-controlled is different to “being good” at self-control. Motivation and Emotion, 43(1), 63–81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-018-9721-3

Hennecke, M., Czikmantori, T., & Brandstätter, V. (2019). Doing despite disliking: Self‐regulatory strategies in everyday aversive activities. European Journal of Personality, 33, 104-128. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.2182

Hoyle, R. H., & Davisson, E. K. (2016). Varieties of self-control and their personality correlates. In K. D. Vohs, & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (pp. 396–413). Guilford Press.

Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: a Multidisciplinary Journal, 6(1), 1-55. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705519909540118

Kolbuszewska, M., Anderson, J., & Milyavskaya, M. (2022). Autonomous motivation, goal-facilitating behaviours, and dietary goal progress in individuals transitioning to a veg* n diet: A longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 1019714. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1019714

Kyndt, E., & Onghena, P. (2014). The integration of work and learning: Tackling the complexity with structural equation modelling. In Discourses on professional learning: On the boundary between learning and working (pp. 255-291). Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7012-6_14

Lopez, R. B., Cosme, D., Werner, K. M., Saunders, B., & Hofmann, W. (2021). Associations between use of self-regulatory strategies and daily eating patterns: An experience sampling study in college-aged women. Motivation and Emotion, 45(6), 747-758. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-021-09903-4

Manapat, P. D., Edwards, M. C., MacKinnon, D. P., Poldrack, R. A., & Marsch, L. A. (2021). A psychometric analysis of the brief self-control scale. Assessment, 28(2), 395–412. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073191119890021

Milyavskaya, M. (2022). Going Vegan Or Vegetarian: Barriers And Strategies On The Path To Success. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/35xcq

Nguyen, T. D., Dadzie, C. A., Chaudhuri, H. R., & Tanner, T. (2019). Self-control and sustainability consumption: Findings from a cross cultural study. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 31(5), 380-394. https://doi.org/10.1080/08961530.2019.1576152

Nilsen, F. A., Bang, H., Boe, O., Martinsen, Ø. L., Lang-Ree, O. C., & Røysamb, E. (2020). The Multidimensional Self-Control Scale (MSCS): Development and validation. Psychological Assessment, 32(11), 1057–1074. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000950

Peetz, J., & Davydenko, M. (2022). Financial self‐regulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 16(5), e12663. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12663

Smyth, A., Milyavsksaya, M., Friese, M., Werner, K., Frech, M. L., Loschelder, D., ... & Wang, K. (2023). What constitutes successful goal pursuit? Exploring the relation between subjective and objective measures of goal progress. Personality Science, 4, 1-26. https://doi.org/10.5964/ps.12017

Wenzel, M., Bürgler, S., Rowland, Z., & Hennecke, M. (2023). Self-control dynamics in daily life: The importance of variability between self-regulatory strategies and strategy differentiation. European Journal of Personality, 37(1), 33-56. https://doi.org/10.1177/08902070211043023 

Wenzel, M., Rowland, Z., Bürgler, S., Friese, M., Hofmann, W., & Hennecke, M. (2022). Person × domain interactions in resisting desires in daily life. European Journal of Personality. https://doi.org/10.1177/08902070221098912

Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2016). Healthy through Habit: Interventions for Initiating & Maintaining Health Behavior Change. Behavioral Science & Policy, 2(1), 71–83. https://doi.org/10.1177/237946151600200109

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