In the smart restaurant of a very smart hotel in the West End of London, Roy F Baumeister, eminent American social psychology professor, orders a lunch of fish and chips, and then decides not to eat the chips. “I won’t eat something that’s not good for me unless it’s absolutely perfect, and it’s going to give me real pleasure,” he says. “I’m afraid … Well, it just didn’t look like these were going to do either.”
What willpower, you might say. You’d be right; the chips looked pretty good. But Baumeister is also, coincidentally, a leading authority on that very subject, and has just published a smash-hit book on it with New York Times science writer John Tierney.
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