Restraint Bias


Restraint bias refers to the tendency of individuals to overestimate their ability to control their impulses and make rational decisions when faced with a temptation or opportunity.

Understanding Restraint Bias

Restraint Bias and Self-Control:

Restraint bias arises from the cognitive limitation of individuals to accurately assess their own self-control abilities. It stems from the belief that one possesses more willpower or self-control than they actually do.

The Illusion of Restraint:

The illusion of restraint refers to the perception of having greater control over impulsive behavior than one actually maintains. It leads individuals to place themselves in situations where they are exposed to temptations, assuming they can resist them successfully.

Narrow Framing:

Narrow framing is a cognitive bias closely related to restraint bias. It involves the tendency to focus on the immediate situation or temptation, rather than considering the long-term consequences of succumbing to it. This limited perspective contributes to the overestimation of one’s ability to restrain themselves.

Effects of Restraint Bias

Increased Exposure:

Restraint bias can lead individuals to expose themselves to more temptations, as they believe they can resist them. This can result in engaging in unhealthy behaviors or making impulsive decisions that may have negative consequences.


Restraint bias can create a discrepancy between an individual’s perceived and actual self-control. When their inability to resist temptations becomes apparent, it may lead to feelings of guilt, regret, and diminished self-esteem.

Failure to Achieve Goals:

Individuals influenced by restraint bias may set unrealistic goals or habits that require high levels of self-control. As a result, they are more likely to experience failure in achieving these goals, which can further contribute to a negative self-perception.

Overcoming Restraint Bias

Awareness and Self-Reflection:

Developing self-awareness regarding one’s actual self-control abilities is crucial in combating restraint bias. Honest self-reflection and acknowledgment of limitations can help individuals avoid situations where temptations are likely to arise.

Pre-commitment Strategies:

Implementing pre-commitment strategies can be effective in reducing the impact of restraint bias. These strategies involve proactively setting limits, such as removing tempting objects from the environment or creating rules or contracts with oneself to mitigate impulsive behavior.

Behavioral Interventions:

Engaging in behavioral interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or impulse control training, can assist individuals in improving their self-control and reducing the influence of restraint bias. These interventions enhance self-awareness, impulse management, and decision-making skills.