Working memory capacity and self-regulatory behavior: Toward an individual differences perspective on behavior determination by automatic versus controlled processes

W. Hofmann*, T. Gschwendner, M. Friese, R.W.H.J. Wiers, M. Schmitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the present research, the authors investigated how individual differences in working memory capacity moderate the relative influence of automatic versus controlled precursors on self-regulatory behavior. In 2 studies, on sexual interest behavior (Study 1) and the consumption of tempting food (Study 2), automatic attitudes toward the temptation of interest had a stronger influence on behavior for individuals who scored low rather than high in working memory capacity. Analogous results emerged in Study 3 on anger expression in a provoking situation when a measure of the automatic personality trait of angriness was employed. Conversely, controlled dispositions such as explicit attitudes (Study 1) and self-regulatory goals (Studies 2 and 3) were more effective in guiding behavior for participants who scored high rather than low in working memory capacity. Taken together, these results demonstrate the importance of working memory capacity for everyday self-regulation and suggest an individual differences perspective on dual-process or dual-system theories of human behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-977
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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