To boost self-control, gargle sugar water. According to a study co-authored by UGA professor of psychology Leonard Martin published in Psychological Science, a mouth rinse with glucose improves self-control.
His study looked at 51 students who performed two tasks to test self-control. The first task, which has been shown to deplete self-control, was the meticulous crossing out of E’s on a page from a statistics book. Participants then performed what is known as the Stroop test where they were asked to identify the color of various words flashed on a screen, which spell out the names of other colors. The Stroop test’s goal is to turn off the student’s tendency to read the words and instead see the colors.
Half of the students rinsed their mouths with lemonade sweetened with sugar while performing the Stroop test, the other half with Splenda-sweetened lemonade. Students who rinsed with sugar, rather than artificial sweetener, were significantly faster at responding to the color rather than the word.
It took subjects about three to five minutes to perform the Stroop test. Martin said results show a measure of self-control, but a glucose mouthwash might not be enough to solve some of the biggest self-control obstacles like losing weight or smoking.
“The research is not clear yet on the effects of swishing with glucose on long-term self-control,” he said. “So, if you are trying to quit smoking, a swish of lemonade may not be the total cure, but it certainly could help you in the short run.”
Martin, in collaboration with co-author Matthew Sanders, a doctoral candidate also in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, believes the motivation comes in the form of self-values, or emotive investment.
“It is the self-investment,” Martin said. “It doesn’t just crank up your energy, but it cranks up your personal investment in what you are doing. Clicking into the things that are important to you makes those self-related goals salient.”