Thinking in action: Need for Cognition predicts Self-Control together with Action Orientation

PLoS One. 2019 Aug 1;14(8):e0220282. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220282. eCollection 2019.


Need for Cognition describes relatively stable interindividual differences in cognitive motivation. Previous research has shown relations of Need for Cognition to Self-Control-a capacity that can be broadly defined as resistance to temptation-yet, the processes underlying this relation remain unclear. One explanation for the prediction of Self-Control by Need for Cognition can be an increased motivation to invest cognitive effort with higher levels of Need for Cognition. Another possible link could be that individual differences in the implementation of Self-Control intentions may play a moderating or mediating role for the predictive value of Need for Cognition. Such individual differences in the self-motivated initiation and maintenance of intentions are described by dispositional Action Orientation. Therefore, in the present study, Action Orientation was examined with regard to its possible role in explaining the relation of Need for Cognition to Self-Control. In a sample of 1209 young adults, Self-Control was assessed with two different self-report instruments and moderation and mediation models of the relationship between Need for Cognition, Action Orientation, and Self-Control were tested. While there was no evidence for a moderating role of Action Orientation in explaining the relation of Need for Cognition and Self-Control, Action Orientation was found to partly mediate this relation with a remaining direct effect of Need for Cognition on Self-Control. These results add to the conceptual understanding of Need for Cognition and demonstrate the relevance of trait variables to predict Self-Control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Self Report
  • Self-Control*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The study was supported by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 940/2, subproject B6, received by Alexander Strobel; The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.