Roy Baumeister

Roy F. Baumeister (/ˈbmstər/; born May 16, 1953) is a social psychologist who is known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, sexuality and sex differences, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, aggression, consciousness, and free will.

Roy F. Baumeister
Baumeister at the 2011 ZURICH.MINDS
Born (1953-05-16) May 16, 1953
Alma materPrinceton University
Duke University
Known forWillpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Self studies.
Awards1993-94 James McKeen Cattell Fund Sabbatical Fellowship Award, 2003 ISI highly cited researcher, 2004 Mensa Award for Excellence in Research, 2007 SPSP Distinguished Service Award, 2011 Jack Block Award, 2012 Distinguished Lifetime Career Contribution Award, 2013 William James Fellow Award
Scientific career
FieldsSocial psychology, Evolutionary psychology
InstitutionsUniversity of Queensland
Florida State University
Case Western Reserve University (1979-2003)

Education and academia

Baumeister earned his A.B. from Princeton University and his M.A. from Duke University. He returned to Princeton University with his mentor Edward E. Jones and earned his Ph.D. from the university's Department of Psychology in 1978.[1][2]

Baumeister then taught at Case Western Reserve University from 1979 to 2003, serving as a professor of psychology and later liberal arts.[3] He later worked at Florida State University as the Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar and head of the social psychology graduate program.[4][5] At FSU, Baumeister worked in the psychology department, teaching classes and graduate seminars on social and evolutionary psychology.[3] In 2016 he moved to the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia where he is currently teaching.[6]

He is a fellow of both the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the Association for Psychological Science. Baumeister was named an ISI highly cited researcher in 2003 and 2014.[7]

Topics of research

Baumeister has researched social psychology for over four decades and made a name for himself with his laboratory research. His research focuses on six themes: self control, decision-making, the need to belong and interpersonal rejection, human sexuality, irrational and self-destructive behavior, and free will.[8]

The self

Baumeister has conducted research on the self, focusing on various concepts related to how people perceive, act, and relate to their selves. Baumeister wrote a chapter titled, "The Self" in The Handbook of Social Psychology,[9] and reviewed the research on self-esteem, concluding that the perceived importance of self-esteem is overrated.[10]

Irrationality and self-defeating behavior

In a series of journal articles and books, Baumeister inquired about the reasons for self-defeating behavior. His conclusions: there is no self-defeating urge (as some have thought). Rather, self-defeating behavior is either a result of trade-offs (enjoying drugs now at the expense of the future), backfiring strategies (eating a snack to reduce stress only to feel more stressed), or a psychological strategy to escape the self – where various self-defeating strategies are rather directed to relieve the burden of selfhood.[11]

The Need to Belong

Baumeister wrote a paper on the need-to-belong theory with Mark Leary in 1995. This theory seeks to show that humans have a natural need to belong with others. Baumeister and Leary suggest that human beings naturally push to form relationships.[12] This push helps to distinguish a need (rather than a desire). In addition to the drive for attachment, people also struggle to avoid the disintegration of these relationships.[12] As part of this theory, a lack of belonging would have a long-term, negative impact on mood and health, and those who do not meet their belonging needs may suffer from behavioral and psychological issues.[12] Need-to-belong theory has two necessary parts:[12]

  1. There is frequent contact between the people involved in the attachment that is typically conflict-free.
  2. The notion of an ongoing and continued relationship between them is essential.

This work was groundbreaking in that it separated itself from previous theories relating to attachment such as those of John Bowlby. While Bowlby's theory implied the attachment needs to be applied to a group leader or authority figure,[13] Baumeister and Leary's need-to-belong theory posited that the relationship could be with anyone.[12] To further distinguish the two theories, Baumeister and Leary theorized that if a relationship dissolved, the bond can often be replaced with a bond to another person.[12]

Later, Baumeister published evidence that the way people look for belongingness differs between men and women. Women prefer a few close and intimate relationships, whereas men prefer many but shallower connections. Men realize more of their need to belong via a group of people, or a cause, rather than in close interpersonal relations.[14]

Self regulation

Baumeister also researched self-regulation. He coined the term "ego depletion" to describe the evidence that humans' ability to self-regulate is limited, and after using it there is less ability (or energy) to self-regulate.[15] Ego depletion has a general effect, such that exerting self-control in one area will use up energy for further regulation in other areas of life.[16] Further research by Baumeister and colleagues has led to the development of the Strength Model of self-control, which likens this ego depletion to the tiredness that comes from physically exerting a muscle. A corollary to this analogy, supported by his research, is that self-control can be strengthened over time, much like a muscle.[17] The energy used up is more than metaphorical, however; his research has found a strong link between ego depletion and depletion of blood-glucose levels.[18] Baumeister also edited two academic books on self-regulation, Losing Control and Handbook of Self-Regulation, and has devoted numerous experiments and journal papers to the topic. He also describes this research in a book, Willpower, authored with former New York Times journalist John Tierney.

In 2016 a large study carried out at two-dozen labs in countries across the world that sought to reproduce the effects described in these studies was unsuccessful.[19] Baumeister, however, disputed the protocol used in this replication. Baumeister also plans to run his own pre-registered replication using a protocol that is more in line with most ego-depletion experiments.[20]

Culture and human sexuality

A series of studies of human sexuality has addressed questions such as how nature and culture influence people's sex drive, rape and sexual coercion, the cultural suppression of female sexuality, and how couples negotiate their sexual patterns.[21] In his research, Baumeister reached four major conclusions:[8]

  1. The relative influence of culture and nature on sexuality varies by gender. Female sexuality is more cultural/nurture, and male sexuality is more in-born/nature (see erotic plasticity).
  2. There is a gender difference with sex drive. Men, on average, want more sex than women.
  3. The present widespread cultural suppression of female sexuality exists in large part at the behest of women.
  4. Sexual interactions can be analyzed in terms of cost-benefit analysis and market dynamics with "sexual economics."

Free will

Baumeister approaches the topic of free will from the view-point of evolutionary psychology. He has listed the major aspects that make up free will as self-control, rational, intelligent choice, planful behavior, and autonomous initiative.[22] Baumeister proposes that "the defining thrust of human psychological evolution was selection in favor of cultural capability" [23] and that these four psychological capabilities evolved to help humans function in the context of culture. In his view, free will is an advanced form of action control that allows humans to act in pro-social ways towards their enlightened self-interest when acting in these ways would otherwise be in conflict with the fulfillment of evolutionarily older drives or instincts.[24] Research by Baumeister and colleagues (principally Kathleen Vohs) has shown that disbelief in free will can lead people to act in ways that are harmful to themselves and society, such as cheating on a test, increased aggression, decreased helpfulness, lower achievement levels in the workplace, and possible barriers to beating addiction.[25][26][27][28]

Erotic plasticity

Baumeister coined the term "erotic plasticity", which is the extent to which one's sex drive can be shaped by cultural, social and situational factors.[29][30] He argues that women have high plasticity, meaning that their sex drive can more easily change in response to external pressures. On the other hand, men have low plasticity, and therefore have sex drives that are relatively inflexible.


Baumeister has written or edited some 30 books, over 500 publications, and has been cited nearly 180,000 times in research literature.[6] Additionally, he authors the column Cultural Animal for Psychology Today. The following is a partial listing of his works.


General audience

Crossover: general audience and academic

  • Escaping the Self: Alcoholism, Spirituality, Masochism, and Other Flights from the Burden of Selfhood (1991).
  • Your Own Worst Enemy: Understanding the Paradox of Self-Defeating Behavior (1993).
  • Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty (1997).
  • Identity: Cultural Change and the Struggle for Self (1986).
  • Masochism and the Self (1989).
  • Meanings of Life (1991).
  • Breaking Hearts: The Two Sides of Unrequited Love (1994).
  • Losing Control: How and Why People Fail at Self-Regulation (1994).
  • The Cultural Animal: Human Nature, Meaning, and Social Life (2005).
  • Homo Prospectus (2016).

Academic books (some books as editor)

  • The Social Dimension of Sex (2000).
  • Public Self and Private Self (1986).
  • Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard (1993).
  • The Self in Social Psychology (1999).
  • Social Psychology and Human Sexuality (2001).
  • Human Sexuality: Meeting Your Basic Needs (2002).
  • Time and Decision: Economic and Psychological Perspectives on Intertemporal Choice (2003).
  • Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications (2004).
  • Encyclopedia of Social Psychology (2007).
  • Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making?: A Hedgefoxian Perspective (2007).
  • Social Psychology and Human Nature (2008).
  • Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will (2008).
  • Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes (2009).
  • Free Will and Consciousness: How Might They Work? (2010).
  • Advanced Social Psychology (2010).
  • New Directions in Social Psychology (2012).
  • The Self and Identity (2014).
  • The Social Psychology of Living Well (2018)[31]


  • “Role of self-control failure in immoral and unethical actions” (2016)
  • “Power, leadership, and self-regulation” (2012)
  • “Is there a downside to good self-control?” (2009)
  • “Why do bad moods increase self-defeating behavior? Emotion, risk taking, and self-regulation” (1996)
  • “Many concepts of the self” (1988)
  • “Development of self-consciousness: At what age does audience pressure disrupt performance?”
  • “The self-monitor looks at the ingratiator” (1976)

Blog Posts


Baumeister is married to Dr. Dianne Tice, a fellow Social Psychologist. They have collaborated on dozens of papers. He enjoys skiing .

See also


  1. "People Directory". Florida State University. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  2. "Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D." UPenn. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  3. Baumeister, Roy (February 3, 2017). "Curriculum Vitae Roy F. Baumeister - Florida State University". FSU.
  4. "Roy F. Baumeister".
  5. Baumeister, Roy. "Cultural Animal". Psychology Today.
  6. "Man with passion equation to call UQ home - Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences - The University of Queensland, Australia". Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  7. Rufener, Brenda. "30 MOST INFLUENTIAL COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGISTS ALIVE TODAY". Best Counseling Degrees. Best Counseling Degrees. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  8. "Research". Roy F. Baumeister. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  9. Baumeister, Roy F. (1954). "15: The Self". In Gilbert, Daniel T.; Fiske, Susan T.; Lindzey, Gardner (eds.). The Handbook of Social Psychology. 1 (4 ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill (published 1998). pp. 680–740. ISBN 9780195213768. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  10. Compare: Baumeister, Roy F. (1993). "11: Understanding the Inner Nature of Low Self-Esteem: Uncertain, Fragile, Protective, and Conflicted". In Baumeister, Roy F. (ed.). Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard. The Springer Series in Social Clinical Psychology. New York: Springer Science & Business Media (published 2013). pp. 217–218. ISBN 9781468489569. Retrieved 2017-07-31. [...] there may be isolated individuals who combine low self-esteem with irrational, self-destructive, or other pathological signs. Sampling techniques that aggressively seek out extremes of self-regard may indeed find enough pathological individuals to yield unusual results and confirm some of the more unsavory impressions and hypotheses about low self-esteem. For the most part, however, low self-esteem is not marked by those patterns. People with low self-esteem can be well understood as ordinary people who are trying in a fairly sensible, rational fashion to adapt effectively to their circumstances and to make their way through life with a minimum of suffering, distress, and humiliation. In that, of course, they are no different from people with high self-esteem.
  11. Baumeister R. (1991) Escaping the Self: Alcoholism, Spirituality, Masochism, and Other Flights from the Burden of Selfhood. Basic Books.
  12. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497.
  13. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York:Basic Books.
  14. "What do men want? Gender differences and two spheres of belongingness: Comment on Cross and Madson (1997)". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252-1265.
  16. Vohs, K., Baumeister, R., Schmeichel, B., Twenge, J., Nelson, N., & Tice, D. (2008). Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: A limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(5), 883-898
  17. Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 16(6), 351-355
  18. Gailliot, M., Baumeister, R., DeWall, C., Maner, J., Plant, E., Tice, D., & Schmeichel, B. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(2), 325-336.
  19. Engber, Daniel (2016-03-06). "Everything Is Crumbling". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  20. "Misguided Effort with Elusive Implications - Association for Psychological Science" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  21. "Roy Baumeister's page, Florida State University".
  22. Stillman, T. F., Baumeister, R. F., & Mele, A. R. (2011). Free will in everyday life: Autobiographical accounts of free and unfree actions. Philosophical Psychology, 24(3), 381-394
  23. Baumeister, R. (2008). Free will in scientific psychology. Perspectives On Psychological Science, 3(1), 14-19.
  24. Baumeister, R. F., Crescioni, A., & Alquist, J. L. (2011). Free will as advanced action control for human social life and culture. Neuroethics, 4(1), 1-11
  25. Vohs, K. D., & Schooler, J. W. (2008). The value of believing in free will: Encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science, 19(1), 49-54.
  26. Baumeister, R. F., Masicampo, E. J., & DeWall, C. (2009). Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(2), 260-268.
  27. Stillman, T. F., Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., & Brewer, L. E. (2010). Personal philosophy and personnel achievement: Belief in free will predicts better job performance. Social Psychological And Personality Science, 1(1), 43-50.
  28. Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2009). Addiction and free will. Addiction Research & Theory, 17(3), 231-235.
  29. Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender Differences in Erotic Plasticity: The Female Sex Drive as Socially Flexible and Responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126(3), 347-374
  30. Baumeister, R. F. (2004). Gender and erotic plasticity: sociocultural influences on the sex drive. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19(2), 1468-1479

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