Temptation: How to Avoid Its Claws with Science

Whether it is a smoking hot piece of grade ‘A’ ass, another drink or illegal activity, temptation surrounds us all. Face your temptation head on with science, because everywhere you turn it will be there, smiling, ready to sink in its claws.

Executive Control

A group of researchers from Maastricht University (Netherlands) conducted a study on the effects of executive control. This involved testing the ‘working memory’ in the pre-frontal cortex. This term, executive control, is often used by psychologists to cover an array of functions including: attention capability, initiating and/or inhibiting action, planning, and memory. Working memory influences executive control keeping unwanted behavior in check. When we fail to ‘do the right thing’ it is essentially a failure of executive control.

The Study

The Maastricht University study (published in the journal Psychology Science in 2011) consisted of heavy drinkers that indulged in thirty glasses of alcohol per week. The study trained their working memory by administering word tests which involved remembering front and backward sequences. The backward recall was the task that strengthened the working memory which, if firing at full capacity, is able to control the executive memory to avoid temptation. The result was a reduction of approximately ten glasses per week per subject and lasted throughout the month when they were asked to return for an assessment.

Working Out the Working Memory

Strengthening the working memory could help us avoid temptation. Here are some ways to boost it to attempt to stop cheating, lying, drugging, drinking or stealing.

• Eat Right – The working memory is easily fogged when you fill your face with a crappy diet. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains to keep it clear.

• Pay Attention – Not remembering things is often due to a limited attention span. The less you remember, the more you act out.

• Music – Listening to music, especially classical, has been linked to strengthening working memory.

• De-Stress – Avoid as much stress as you can as this fogs the prefrontal cortex, leads to numbing the mind and in turn can easily manifest a tempting desire.

• Group It – Try to remember things in groups. If you have errands to run post them in your head per subject such as ‘car’ for washing, gassing and oil changing or ‘vegetables’ if you need to purchase many.

• Play it Back – Just like the Netherlands test, exercise your working memory by lying down and replaying everything backwards for as many hours or days as you can go.

• Neural Connections – add more neurons to your working memory by doing tasks with the opposite hand such as brushing your teeth, working the remote or signing your name.

Avoiding temptation can simply work by removing yourself from a compromising situation however sometimes outside help is needed. Therapy is another good tool as well as the above exercises. If all else fails and you feel out of control then visit your doctor as you may need medication to get you back on track.

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