Self-Control: It is Learned or Genetic [Scientific Based Answers]

Self-control is our ability to combat our impulses. The reason is that most good things in life require us to have some sort of self-control. This involves eating right, exercising, working on your goals, studying, and much more. However, one thing concerning a lot of people is if self-control is genetic, or it is something learned. In this article, we are going to cover this topic. We’ll deep dive into the scientific research regarding this topic and would come up with a conclusion. But here is the conclusion.

Self-control can be learned. It can also be genetic. Science has found that there are genetic influences when it comes to self-control. However, that doesn’t mean that self-control can’t be learned as numerous papers prove that self-control strengthening and training works.

That is the general summary of this article. In the remaining parts of this article, we are going to explain what this means for us. Furthermore, we are going to prove the statement by giving some scientific research studies that relate to this topic. We are going to answer if self-control can be learned, are there people born with self-control, and finally, combine all of them to conclude if self-control is genetic or learned.

Can self-control be learned?

Self-control can be learned. It is a skill anyone can develop. This has been proven numerous times by scientific papers that everyone can learn how to strengthen and build self-control. Generally speaking, we can increase our self-control by improving our willpower.

Let’s first start discussing self-control as a learnable skill. Skills are things that we can generally improve over time such as when we are practicing musical instruments, or developing our self-confidence.

It is also true that self-control can be learned by anybody.

A research paper from the Learning Disability Quarterly stated that continued self-control training on disabled students yields positive results on their learning abilities.[1]

This means that on the research, they tried building self-control of disabled students and found out that it significantly improved their self-control and learning upon continuous training.

Furthermore, another research paper from the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found out that they confirmed improvement of self-control after just 6 weeks of self-control training.[2]

These research papers just prove that anyone can learn self-control.

In fact, we can regard self-control as a muscle.

The reason is simple. Self-control is well tied with willpower.

Kelly McGonigal‘s book “The Willpower Instinct“, the book talked about ways to improve willpower.

I actually have a video where I discussed the book summary of the Willpower instinct. Feel free to watch it here.

In the video, I’ve discussed ways for you to increase your willpower or your self-control instantly.

But my point here is this.

Self-control can be increased by training since it is a skill. A skill that you can develop over time. This boils down to discipline.

Everyone can learn how to build self-control. While it is genetic as we’ll see later in this article, that doesn’t mean that you can’t strengthen or build it.

The perfect example is my own self. A few years back, I already know what to do in order to improve various aspects of my life which include financial, social, and many more.

However, I just don’t feel like doing it and just got with the flow of my bad habits.

I even had my website 2 years back but haven’t really made progress until a few months back because of procrastination. Writing an article is really tiring and mentally intensive.

However, once I’ve strengthened my self-control, I was able to publish more content to make this site bigger. That’s why you’ll probably read this article.

That’s why I want to give you this thought and I want you to know that self-control is learnable.

Because I also learned self-control.

To prove this, I made another article explaining the relationship between self-control and intelligence which is widely accepted as something that you can improve over time. If you need more information that self-control is something learnable. I explained the relationship between intelligence and self-control in the brain itself. Here is the link: Is self-control a sign of intelligence?

Are you born with self-control?

There are people born with self-control. Thus, self-control can be genetic. However, that doesn’t mean that self-control can only be obtained through genes. In fact, there are also numerous researches proving that training can improve a person’s self-control.

While some would stop their research upon seeing that self-control is learnable, I want to go way beyond that.

I’ve also found in my research that self-control is genetic.

This means that there are just people who are born with it and it is perfectly fine if you’re not.

In fact, I am not born with intense self-control. I just developed it through my various experiences in life.

I have found 2 research papers about self-control being genetic. One of which proves the genetic influence on self-control. The paper is also reliable when we speak about genetics because they’re studying twins.

Another is a research paper studying the overlap between self-control as something that can be learned by environment and developed by birth. Thus, genetic.

The second research would be discussed later. Right now, let’s deal with the first one.

A research paper from the Journal of Criminal Justice reported that there are genetic influences on the stability of self-control.[3]

What this means is that genetics play a role in a person’s level of self-control. Thus, there are people just born with self-control, and there are others who are born with just a little.

They also used twins as their subjects in the study. Which is good when we’re talking about genes.

However, as I said, self-control is also a skill that a person can learn. We will discuss it in the next section.

Is self-control genetic or learned?

Self-control is both genetic and skill. This means there are people who are born with self-control. But, this also means that self-control can be learned. Even someone who is not gifted with self-control can have strong willpower once trained.

Now, let us conclude the article and combine all of the studies discussed.

While it is true that there is a genetic factor in a person’s self-control, it also means that self-control can be learned.

Furthermore, self-control can also be linked to genetics as we’ve seen in another research from the Journal of Criminal Justice.

Finally, let me give the other study that researched the genetic and environmental overlap in self-control.

In the study by the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, it was found out that there are genetic and environmental factors related to self-control. This means that self-control is genetic, meaning that it is something you can be born with. [4]

It is also environmental, in which your environment teaches you self-control. Thus, learnable.

Thus, this means that upon checking these research papers, it can be proven that self-control is both genetic and learned.

So, if you want to improve your self-control, you can definitely do it. As I’ve said, I am also someone who improved my self-control through the practice of increasing my willpower.

Only the things I love. is reader-supported. When you buy through links on the site, I earn an affiliate commission.

If you’re following me, you’ll know that I believe it is essential to have some tools, whether it’s for personal development or lifestyle in general.

So, here are the things I love.


If you want to learn things for free, I recommend watching my YouTube Channel. Click the Button Below to go straight into my Channel. 🙂

Okay, let me first explain my Channel.

I believe that I really can’t explain everything too well on my blog. That’s why I created a YouTube Channel so I can easily explain a lot of things. Plus, I believe that Video Sharing is the future.

Recommended Books

The next thing is books. Books are, for me, one of the cheapest ways to get invaluable information. We can learn personal development, finance, career, relationships, and many more from books.

Here, I will be listing my favorite books in different categories.

  1. For Beginners7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Personal development has a lot of concepts and ideas to learn. Thus it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. Thus, I recommend this book since all the basic concepts of personal development are here(except finance, check what I recommended for that)
  2. ProductivityThe One Thing by Gary Keller – This book teaches us the power of focusing on one thing which is the ultimate source of productivity. The concepts taught are what I am using to constantly publish YouTube videos while maintaining this website.
  3. Busy?Make Time by Jack Knapp – This book teaches us how to make time for the things we love. The concept is really simple but I think that makes it a book worth reading.
  4. HealthLifespan by Dr.Sinclair – This Book teaches about the latest scientific research on lifespan. In his book, he has shared numerous things he is doing to slow down his aging process. This can be as easy as eating less which he recommends.
  5. FinanceThe Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason – Perhaps one of the first books I’ve read about Finance, this book for me is the best if we are talking about learning basic finance such as basic saving and investing. The concepts are very simple but effective.


Take this advice as a grain of salt.

I don’t recommend buying Audiobooks one by one. I mean, audiobooks can be quickly finished by listening while working out or doing some mindless tasks.

So here is to save you some money. Just go for a monthly subscription to Audible. I believe that you will save a lot of money with that plus, they usually give freebies to anyone starting.

My Audiobook Recommendation will always be the same as my book recommendations, but I personally like The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I like how she is so casual while reading her book.


  1. Harris, Karen R., and Steve Graham. “Improving Learning Disabled Students’ Composition Skills: Self-Control Strategy Training.” Learning Disability Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 1, 1985, pp. 27–36. Crossref, doi:10.2307/1510905.
  2. Fuchs, Carilyn Z., and Lynn P. Rehm. “A Self-Control Behavior Therapy Program for Depression.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 45, no. 2, 1977, pp. 206–15. Crossref, doi:10.1037/0022-006x.45.2.206.
  3. Beaver, Kevin M., et al. “Genetic Influences on the Stability of Low Self-Control: Results from a Longitudinal Sample of Twins.” Journal of Criminal Justice vol. 36, no. 6, 2008, pp. 478–85. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2008.09.006.
  4. Boisvert, Danielle, et al. “Genetic and Environmental Overlap between Low Self-Control and Delinquency.Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 28, no. 3, 2011, pp. 477–507. Crossref, doi:10.1007/s10940-011-9150-x.

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