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The Willful Self

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
SAGE Publications
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William James devoted a chapter of his Principles of Psychology to the nature and function of the will, elaborating several specific means by which individuals engage in willful behavior For James, the self was centrally involved in the will, and "willing" often involved perceiving the end state, or goal, in terms of the self Until quite recently most approaches to the will, intention, and motivation since James have minimized the role of the self This article describes recent conceptions of the self and discusses how these may allow us to refine and extend some of James's notions about the operation of the will. It focuses specifically on the importance of making an intention self-relevant, the ways that the self may allow the person to maintain attention on an intended act, and the process by which the self may control willful behavior. It is argued that further developments in understanding willfulness require thorough analysis of the interdependence between the structure and functioning of the self system and volitional behavior.

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