From the archives: John Tierney on the science behind willpower

A photo of an author and the book cover for "Willpower"
Science journalist John Tierney teamed up with psychologist Roy F. Baumeister to write “Willpower,” a book that delves into the secrets of self-control.
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Why do we do what we don’t want to do? And why can’t we make ourselves do what we want?

Humans have puzzled over this one for ages. But science is starting to clear a window into the motives and biology behind self-control.

Science journalist John Tierney teamed up with psychologist and researcher Roy F. Baumeister in 2011 to write about it in their book “Willpower.” For this week’s archive broadcast, you’ll hear a conversation between Tierney and MPR News host Kerri Miller from early 2012 where they talk about how to understand this coveted human virtue.

It hints at the discussion coming this Friday on Big Books and Bold Ideas — a chat with cognitive behaviorist and former professional poker player Annie Duke about the science of quitting.


  • John Tierney is a science journalist and one-half of the duo behind the book, “Willpower,” published in 2011.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above. 

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