Skip to content
Search AI Powered

Latest Stories

Want More Self-Control? Stop Being Self-Centered.

Want More Self-Control? Stop Being Self-Centered.

New research links empathy and self-control.

[DIGEST: The Atlantic, ZME Science, Medical Xpress]

“Should I shut off the television, or keep binge watching Orange is the New Black?” “Should I have one more drink, or call it a night?” “Should I finish this container of ice cream?”


This struggle between your “now” self and your “future” self is a familiar one. And a new study reveals that this battle may have its roots in a single area of the brain.

Scientists have pinned the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) of the brain as being linked to empathy and selflessness. When this area of the brain, which is located close to your ear, is stimulated, people are better able to take someone else’s perspective. People with larger rTPJs also tend to act more altruistically.  

A recent study by Alexander Soutschek at the University of Zurich and his colleagues suggests for the first time that the rTPJ is also linked to self-control—which typically has been thought to be controlled by the prefrontal region. Said Soutschek, “When you have a closer look at the literature, you sometimes find in the neuroimaging data that the TPJ is also active during delay of gratification, but it’s never interpreted.”

In the study, published last fall in Science Advances, Soutschek and his colleagues used magnetic fields to shut down the rTPJ temporarily. When the rTPJ was shut down, the study’s participants were less likely to share money with a partner—especially if that partner was a stranger—and more likely to take a direct sum of cash over a future, larger lump sum.

In the second part of the study, researchers showed the participants a picture of a man standing in a room with red discs on the wall. The participants had to say how many of the discs the man could see, requiring them to shift their perspective to his. When their rTPJs were disrupted, they were less able to predict how many he could see. The worse their predictions, the more likely they were to take the direct sum of cash.

This study reveals that impulsivity and selfishness are correlated—as are empathy and self-restraint—and impacted by a single region of the brain. “From a neural perspective, the [TPJ] may represent the own future self like another person,” explained Soutschek. “This means that the same brain mechanisms may be necessary to be patient for a future gain and for being able to share with another person.”

The researchers postulate that the results could have tremendous implications for people struggling with addiction. “When people think about addiction, it’s often seen as a deficit in impulse control,” said Christian Ruff, a co-author of the study. “Our results suggest that this other process is also very important—that the afflicted individuals may not be able to take the perspective of their future selves.”

Even for those not battling addiction, the study could have broad ramifications. Delaying gratification can contribute to physical and emotional health, as well as financial stability.

Better put away that ice cream.

More from News

Kit Connor
Karwai Tang/WireImage/GettyImages

Kit Connor Is Rumored To Be Top Choice For Gay MCU Superhero—And 'Heartstopper' Fans Are So Into It

Fans of Heartstopper were absolutely chuffed and crossing their fingers after hearing rumors that British actor Kit Connor was being considered to play a known LGBTQ+ superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The 20-year-old has been acting since he was just 8 in numerous TV and film projects, including roles in the 2018 films The Mercy, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. He also portrayed a teenaged Elton John in 2019's Rocketman and voiced Pantalaimon in the HBO fantasy series His Dark Materials.

Keep ReadingShow less
yellow smiley face balloons
Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

People Explain Which Things Massively Improved Their Mental Health

It wasn't that long ago that mental health was only spoken of in hushed whispers due to ignorance and stigma.

But with education and awareness efforts, more people are paying attention to their own mental health and that of the people they care about.

Keep ReadingShow less

People Who Turned Down A Marriage Proposal Explain Why They Said 'No'


Keep ReadingShow less
Screenshot of J.D. Vance
C-SPAN

JD Vance Got Laughs With A Cringey 'Political Violence' Joke During His RNC Speech

Former President Donald Trump's running mate J.D. Vance was criticized for appearing to make light of the recent assassination attempt on Trump's life during his speech accepting the vice presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention.

At one point, Vance joked about "political violence" between Ohio and Michigan supporters while discussing some of his life experiences before officially starting his political career with a successful 2022 Senate campaign.

Keep ReadingShow less
Screenshots of Kamala Harris and J.D. Vance
C-SPAN; NBC News

Kamala Harris Calls Out JD Vance For 'What He Didn't Say' During RNC Speech In Epic Takedown

In a fiery speech to supporters in North Carolina, Vice President Kamala Harris called out what J.D. Vance—former President Donald Trump's freshly selected running mate—"didn't say" in his speech accepting the VP nomination on Night 3 of the Republican National Convention.

Amid much talk about key conservative issues like immigration, the ongoing border crisis, and "law and order," he did not once mention what the GOP has explicitly laid out and is now attempting to distance itself from: Project 2025.

Keep ReadingShow less