Roy Baumeister at Dartmouth: Willpower Improves Life


Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, a lecturer in the “Leading Voices in Higher Education” series discussed willpower and self-control in a recent talk before a standing-room-only crowd in Moore Hall’s Filene Auditorium. “Increasing self-control is one of the best avenues for producing benefits and improvements throughout life,” Baumeister told Dartmouth Now, in an interview before his talk. “What I tell parents is that self-control is the best gift that you can give your child.”



A professor of psychology at Florida State University, Baumeister is one of the world’s leading social psychologists and is known for his pioneering work on the self, social rejection, sexuality, self-esteem, aggression, consciousness, and free will. He is also the author of more than 30 books, most recently Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, which he wrote with New York Times science columnist John Tierney.

Baumeister is one of the “most creative, prolific, and highly cited researchers,” said Dartmouth’s Todd Heatherton, the Lincoln Filene Professor in Human Relations in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who worked with Baumeister as a postdoctoral fellow. “Roy’s work has been highly influential.”


During his recent visit to campus, Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist and professor of psychology at Florida State University, discussed how willpower and self-control affect decision making. (photo by Rob Bossi)

Self-control plays a large part in a person’s life, Baumeister said in his lecture. “It is difficult to identify any major personal problems that do not have some element of self-control failure,” he said. “People with good self-control use it to set up their lives to run smoothly.”

The next speaker in the Leading Voices series is education innovator Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, a free, online education source which has 3.7 million unique users a month. Khan will speak on “Rethinking Education,” on Monday, April 23, at 4:30 p.m., at a location to be announced. Bill Gates, who along with his children has used Khan’s videos, says Khan provides a glimpse of “the future of education.”

Future speakers also include longtime Princeton Dean Nancy Weiss Malkiel, on May 1; sociologist and Columbia Provost Emeritus Jonathan R. Cole, May 8; Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, May 14, and Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A date hasn’t yet been set for Hrabowski’s talk.

The “Leading Voices” series is part of Dartmouth’s strategic planning process, which began last summer. The process seeks to chart a “bold and aspirational path for Dartmouth’s future in anticipation of our 250th anniversary in 2019,” says Provost Carol Folt.

See slideshow on Dartmouth’s flickr site.

Susan J. Boutwell