A Shared Responsibility of All Human Agents

Educational psychology does not have the monopoly on research related to self-regulation. In fact, the proliferation of self-regulation research outside of educational psychology suggests that educational psychologists need to be informed concerning research, theory, and applications outside of their discipline. Self-regulation was born in the nest of social and personality psychology with the classic work of Albert Bandura, which was followed with Walter Mischel’s research on delay of gratification with the marshmallow test. Before Bandura and Mischel, traces of self-regulation are found in the psychodynamic and behavioral disciplines. However, it was not until Dale H. Schunk introduced self-efficacy to the field of education and later he and Barry J. Zimmerman introduced self-regulation to education that self-regulation of learning emerged as an independent unit of instruction, assessment, theory, research, and practice. Learning about research, theory, and applications outside of educational psychology can significantly enhance the research and practice of educational psychologists. In this vein, Kathleen D. Vohs and Roy F. Baumeister’s Handbook of Self-regulation: Research, Theory, and Applicationsrepresents a significant step toward understanding human agency in a more integral fashion.

In Vohs and Baumeister’s Handbook of Self-regulation, the contributors individually and collectively provide a variety of theories and applications from a diverse spectrum of perspectives that include thoughts on temperament, religion, social relationships, personality traits, attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder, attachment, aging, effortful control, working memory, nonconscious processes, and delay of gratification. As an update to the first edition, the second edition of this volume many of the original contributors expanded their chapters and new chapters were added representing the continued spread of self-regulation to diverse areas of human behavior. The new chapters highlight the role of automaticity, working memory, counteractive self-control, development across the lifespan, executive functioning, twins behavior, religion, culture, and the Big Five on self-regulation. The book is wisely divided in six parts: (1) Basic regulatory processes; (2) Cognitive, physiological, and neurological dimensions of self-regulation; (3) Development of self-regulation; (4) Social dimension of self-regulation; (5) Personality and self-regulation; and (6) Common problems with self-regulation.

Vohs and Baumeister’s Handbook of Self-regulation contains very significant caveats important to educational psychologists, educators, and learners. For instance, Carver and Scheier’s chapter emphasizes the importance of perceiving self-regulation as a reflecting process of feedback control. Koole, Van Dillen, and Sheppes describe the process of emotion regulation and how the capacity for emotion regulation can be enhanced through training. Wagner and Heatherton, based on emerging cognitive neuroscience of self-regulatory failure, provide neuropsychological insights into the functional organization of self-control. Mischel and Ayduk, using the hot/cool system within the cognitive affective processing model of self-regulation, examine the dynamics of delay of gratification. Sayette and Griffin discussed self-regulatory failure and emphasize misregulation and underregulation. These and other important findings, if applied to education, could strengthen our theories, research and practice. For instance, teachers who understand the importance of delay of gratification will approach homework assignments by equipping students with self-regulatory strategies such as goal setting, self-monitoring, self-consequencing, help seeking, and self-evaluation, which would empower students with tools that will secure successful homework completion.

No doubt the Vohs and Baumeister’s Handbook of Self-regulation has a myriad of strengths important to education, teaching, and learning. However, its applications to learning and classroom practices are limited by its emphasis on willpower, temperament, unconscious processes, and personality traits. It does not clearly explain how teachers could enhance their classroom practices. Readers with an educational psychology perspective should read this volume concomitantly with Barry J. Zimmerman and Dale H. Schunk’s Handbook of Self-Regulation of Learning and Practice (Routledge, 2011). Zimmerman and Schunk provide a direct link between self-regulation and teaching and learning in diverse contents. Further, Zimmerman and Schunk integrate the field of self-regulation of learning and performance into diverse content areas, instructional issues, methodological issues, and individual differences, and provide clear guidelines about how educators, practitioners, and learners could enhance their practice and learning experiences.

In sum, Vohs and Baumeister have done a laudable work challenging readers to understand human agency, self-direction, and efficacy. Clearly, Vohs, Baumeister, and the contributors to their Handbook have provided compelling evidence that if self-regulation is neglected and overlooked, it would be a disservice to individuals in classrooms, healthcare settings, and sport arenas. Together with Zimmerman and Schunk’s Handbook, Vohs and Baumeister’s Handbook of Self-regulation is a call to apply current theories and emerging trends in self-regulation scholarship and to experimentally test them across diverse contents and situations, including those in the educational domain. Yes, educational psychology does not have the monopoly on the research on self-regulation and practical applications of self-regulation research. Educational psychologists need to continue a constant conversation about self-regulation not only amongst themselves, but with scholars, educators, and theorists from diverse nests. Clearly, self-regulation is a common and shared responsibility of all agents of human action.