Self-regulation theory (SRT) is a system of conscious personal management that involves the process of guiding one's own thoughts, behaviors and feelings to reach goals. Self-regulation consists of several stages and individuals must function as contributors to their own motivation, behavior and development within a network of reciprocally interacting influences.
Roy Baumeister, one of the leading social psychologists who have studied self-regulation, claims it has four components: standards of desirable behaviour, motivation to meet standards, monitoring of situations and thoughts that precede breaking said standards and lastly, willpower. Baumeister along with other colleagues developed three models of self-regulation designed to explain its cognitive accessibility: self-regulation as a knowledge structure, strength, or skill. Studies have been done to determine that the strength model is generally supported, because it is a limited resource in the brain and only a given amount of self-regulation can occur until that resource is depleted.
SRT can be applied to:
- impulse control, the management of short-term desires. People with low impulse control are prone to acting on immediate desires. This is one route for such people to find their way to jail as many criminal acts occur in the heat of the moment. For non-violent people it can lead to losing friends through careless outbursts, or financial problems caused by making too many impulsive purchases.
- the cognitive bias known as illusion of control. To the extent that people are driven by internal goals concerned with the exercise of control over their environment, they will seek to reassert control in conditions of chaos, uncertainty or stress. Failing genuine control, one coping strategy will be to fall back on defensive attributions of control—leading to illusions of control (Fenton-O'Creevy et al., 2003).
- goal attainment and motivation
- sickness behavior
SRT consists of several stages. First, the patient deliberately monitors one's own behavior and evaluates how this behavior affects one's health. If the desired effect is not realized, the patient changes personal behavior. If the desired effect is realized, the patient reinforces the effect by continuing the behavior. (Kanfer 1970;1971;1980)[clarification needed]
Another approach is for the patient to realize a personal health issue and understand the factors involved in that issue. The patient must decide upon an action plan for resolving the health issue. The patient will need to deliberately monitor the results in order to appraise the effects, checking for any necessary changes in the action plan. (Leventhal & Nerenz 1984)[clarification needed]
Another factor that can help the patient reach his/her own goal of personal health is to relate to the patient the following: Help them figure out the personal/community views of the illness, appraise the risks involved and give them potential problem-solving/coping skills. Four components of self-regulation described by Baumeister et al. (2007) are:
- Standards: Of desirable behavior.
- Motivation: To meet standards.
- Monitoring: Of situations and thoughts that precede breaking standards.
- Willpower: Internal strength to control urges