• Dr. Howard Farkas

Q&A: Behaviors, Causes, and Effects

This is a list of questions I typed out while I was taking a break today. Then I wrote statements based on the Balance Model idea I’ve been posting about, and also some implications of those statements (a lot of them address the questions directly, but all the answers can be inferred). I was going to write it all out as an essay, but I decided to just post it as I wrote it. Let me know what you think. It’s all subject to (some) revisions.


  1.  Why is it so hard to maintain self-control?

  2.  Why do people defy authority?

  3.  Why do we want what we can’t have?

  4.  Why do people lose their temper over trivial things?

  5.  Why is forbidden fruit attractive?

  6.  Why do people binge eat?

  7.  Why do people procrastinate?

  8.  Why are teens rebellious?

  9. Why is reverse psychology effective?

  10.  Why do freshmen gain weight?

  11.  Why do college kids chug cheap beer?

  12.  Why do repressive regimes have revolutions?

  13.  Why do alcoholics binge drink when they go off the wagon?

  14.  Why do guys have wild bachelor parties?


  1. We have a need to maintain a balance between autonomy and control

  2. Behavior is motivated in part by the dynamic process that regulates this balance

  3. A perceived limit on autonomy generates an opposite reaction to maintain equilibrium

  4. The greater the limit the stronger the reaction

  5. The reaction may be delayed, but if the perception of limits doesn’t change it’s inevitable

  6. By changing the perception of restraint, the reaction can be modified or avoided

  7. The process is bi-directional: a perceived lack of structure can lead to excessive self-restraint (e.g., anorexia?)

  8. This reaction can also be proactive in anticipation of limits

  9. Balance can be maintained at the extremes or in the middle

  10. Autonomous control is an ideal state of moderate balance between freedom and responsibility

  11. Self-control is usually  used to describe the exercise of self-restraint

  12. Self-regulation best describes the larger process of maintaining emotional equilibrium


  1. Forbidden fruit is desirable because it is a response to an imposed limitation

  2. Adolescents are learning to be more independent and resist control

  3. College students celebrate their independence by engaging in behavior that was restricted

  4. A self-control task will negatively impact performance on subsequent control tasks to offset the imbalance

  5. Decision-making is a perceived limitation since by choosing one thing you reject all other options

  6. Diets that feel imposed (internally or externally) will fail

  7. These principles can be applied to social systems as well as behavior

  8. Explosive anger is restrained irritation finally triggered by a small event


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