WILLPOWER – IELTS Reading Passage 3

WILLPOWER

WILLPOWER
WILLPOWER

A    Although willpower does not shape our decisions, it determines whether and how long we can follow through on them. It almost single-handedly determines life outcomes. Interestingly, research suggests the general population is indeed aware of how essential willpower is to their wellbeing; survey participants routinely identify a ‘lack of willpower’ as the major impediment to making beneficial life changes. There are, however, misunderstandings surrounding the nature of willpower and how we can acquire more of it. There is a widespread misperception, for example, that increased leisure time would lead to subsequent increases in willpower.

B    Although the concept of willpower is often explained through single-word terms, such as ‘resolve’ or ‘drive’, it refers in fact to a variety of behaviours and situations. There is a common perception that willpower entails resisting some kind of a ‘treat’, such as a sugary drink or a lazy morning in bed, in favour of decisions that we know are better for us, such as drinking water or going to the gym. Of course this is a familiar phenomenon for all. Yet willpower also involves elements such as overriding negative thought processes, biting your tongue in social situations, or persevering through a difficult activity. At the heart of any exercise of willpower, however, is the notion of ‘delayed gratification’, which involves resisting immediate satisfaction for a course that will yield greater or more permanent satisfaction in the long run.

C    Scientists are making general investigations into why some individuals are better able than others to delay gratification and thus employ their willpower, but the genetic or environmental origins of this ability remain a mystery for now. Some groups who are particularly vulnerable to reduced willpower capacity, such as those with addictive personalities, may claim a biological origin for their problems. What is clear is that levels of willpower typically remain consistent over time (studies tracking individuals from early childhood to their adult years demonstrate a remarkable consistency in willpower abilities). In the short term, however, our ability to draw on willpower can fluctuate dramatically due to factors such as fatigue, diet and stress. Indeed, research by Matthew Gailliot suggests that willpower, even in the absence of physical activity, both requires and drains blood glucose levels, suggesting that willpower operates more or less like a ‘muscle’, and, like a muscle, requires fuel for optimum functioning.

D    These observations lead to an important question: if the strength of our willpower at the age of thirty-five is somehow pegged to our ability at the age of four, are all efforts to improve our willpower certain to prove futile? According to newer research, this is not necessarily the case. Gregory M. Walton, for example, found that a single verbal cue – telling research participants how strenuous mental tasks could ‘energise’ them for further challenging activities – made a profound difference in terms of how much willpower participants could draw upon to complete the activity. Just as our willpower is easily drained by negative influences, it appears that willpower can also be boosted by other prompts, such as encouragement or optimistic self-talk.

E    Strengthening willpower thus relies on a two-pronged approach: reducing negative influences and improving positive ones. One of the most popular and effective methods simply involves avoiding willpower depletion triggers, and is based on the old adage, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. In one study, workers who kept a bowl of enticing candy on their desks were far more likely to indulge than those who placed it in a desk drawer. It also appears that finding sources of motivation from within us may be important. In another study, Mark Muraven found that those who felt compelled by an external authority to exert self-control experienced far greater rates of willpower depletion than those who identified their own reasons for taking a particular course of action. This idea that our mental convictions can influence willpower was borne out by Veronika Job. Her research indicates that those who think that willpower is a finite resource exhaust their supplies of this commodity long before those who do not hold this opinion.

F    Willpower is clearly fundamental to our ability to follow through on our decisions but, as psychologist Roy Baumeister has discovered, a lack of willpower may not be the sole impediment every time our good intentions fail to manifest themselves. A critical precursor, he suggests, is motivation – if we are only mildly invested in the change we are trying to make, our efforts are bound to fall short. This may be why so many of us abandon our New Year’s Resolutions – if these were actions we really wanted to take, rather than things we felt we ought to be doing, we would probably be doing them already. In addition, Muraven emphasises the value of monitoring progress towards a desired result, such as by using a fitness journal, or keeping a record of savings toward a new purchase. The importance of motivation and monitoring cannot be overstated. Indeed, it appears that, even when our willpower reserves are entirely depleted, motivation alone may be sufficient to keep us on the course we originally chose.

Questions

Questions 27–33

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3? In boxes 27–32 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

27.    Willpower is the most significant factor in determining success in life.

28.    People with more free time typically have better willpower.

29.    Willpower mostly applies to matters of diet and exercise.

30.    The strongest indicator of willpower is the ability to choose long-term rather than short-term rewards.

31.     Researchers have studied the genetic basis of willpower.

32.    Levels of willpower usually stay the same throughout our lives.

33.    Regular physical exercise improves our willpower ability.

Questions 34 –39

Look at the following statements (Questions 37–40) and the list of researchers below. Match each statement with the correct person, A–D.
Write the correct letter, A–D, in boxes 37–40 on your answer sheet. You may use some letters more than once.

This researcher …

34.    identified a key factor that is necessary for willpower to function.
35.    suggested that willpower is affected by our beliefs.
36.    examined how our body responds to the use of willpower.
37.    discovered how important it is to make and track goals.
38.    found that taking actions to please others decreases our willpower.
39.    found that willpower can increase through simple positive thoughts.

List of People

A.    Matthew Gailliot
B.    Gregory M. Walton
C.    Mark Muraven
D.    Veronika Job
E.    Roy Baumeister

Question 40

Which of the following is NOT mentioned as a factor in willpower?

Willpower is affected by:

A. physical factors such as tiredness
B. our fundamental ability to delay pleasure
C. the levels of certain chemicals in our brains
D. environmental cues such as the availability of a trigger

ANSWERS

Questions 27–33

27. TRUE

  • Keywords: most important, determining, success
  • In paragraph A it is stated:  “Although willpower does not shape our decisions, it determines whether and how long we can follow through on them. It almost single-handedly determines life outcomes.”
  •  Therefore, even though willpower does not affect the way we decide, it is the most important factor in whether we follow up/act on our decisions => determine whether we will succeed or not.
  • The answer is TRUE.

28. FALSE

  • Keywords: more free time, better willpower
  • In paragraph A, it is also stated that:  “There is a widespread misperception, for example, that increased leisure time would lead to subsequent increases in willpower”.
  • The belief that more free time will provide people with more will power is a misconception – the belief is not true.
  • The answer is FALSE.

29. FALSE

  • Keywords: willpower, applies, diet, exercise, mostly
  • In paragraph B it is stated that:  “Although the concept of willpower is often explained through single-word terms, such as ‘resolve’ or ‘drive’, it refers in fact to a variety of behaviours and situations. There is a common perception that willpower entails resisting some kind of a ‘treat’, such as a sugary drink or a lazy morning in bed, in favour of decisions that we know are better for us, such as drinking water or going to the gym. Of course this is a familiar phenomenon for all. Yet willpower also involves elements such as overriding negative thought processes, biting your tongue in social situations, or persevering through a difficult activity.”
  • It can be inferred that diet and exercise are just examples of some aspects of life in which willpower can be applied, but there are also many other situations in which willpower can be adopted, some of which are named in the paragraph.
  • The answer is FALSE.

30. TRUE

  • Keywords: strongest indicator, ability, long-term rewards
  • In paragraph B it is stated that: “At the heart of any exercise of willpower, however, is the notion of ‘delayed gratification’, which involves resisting immediate satisfaction for a course that will yield greater or more permanent satisfaction in the long run.”
  • So, what determines the level of will power is whether one can prioritize long-term goals rather than short-term goals.
    • the strongest indicator ~ at the heart of
    • long-term rewards ~ greater or more permanent satisfaction
    • short-term rewards = immediate satisfaction
    • long-term = in the long run
  • The answer is TRUE.

31. NOT GIVEN

  • Keywords: researchers, genetic basis
  • It is only stated in paragraph C that genetic factors remain a mystery: “Scientists are making general investigations into why some individuals are better able than others to delay gratification and thus employ their willpower, but the genetic or environmental origins of this ability remain a mystery for now.”
  • So we cannot conclude whether scientists have conducted research or not, we only know that they are making ‘general investigations’.
  • The answer is NOT GIVEN.

32. TRUE

  • Keywords: level, stay the same
  • “What is clear is that levels of willpower typically remain consistent over time (studies tracking individuals from early childhood to their adult years demonstrate a remarkable consistency in willpower abilities).”
  • In paragraph C, it is clearly stated that the level of will power remains unchanged from childhood years into adult life = throughout our lives.
    • stay the same = remain consistent
  • The answer is TRUE.

33. NOT GIVEN

  • Keywords: physical exercise, improve
  • In paragraph C, it is stated that: “In the short term, however, our ability to draw on willpower can fluctuate dramatically due to factors such as fatigue, diet and stress.  Indeed, research by Matthew Gailliot suggests that willpower, even in the absence of physical activity, both requires and drains blood glucose levels….
    • physical exercise~physical activity
  • Our ability to use willpower depends, therefore, on diet, fatigue and stress.  We are only told that, whether we do physical exercise or not, we need to maintain blood glucose levels.  So, we have no information if this statement is true or not.
  • The answer is NOT GIVEN.

Questions 34 –39

34. E

  • Keywords: a key factor, function
  • In paragraph F it is stated:  “Willpower is clearly fundamental to our ability to follow through on our decisions but, as psychologist Roy Baumeister has discovered, a lack of willpower may not be the sole impediment every time our good intentions fail to manifest themselves. A critical precursor, he suggests, is motivation – if we are only mildly invested in the change we are trying to make, our efforts are bound to fall short.”
  • Roy Baumeister discovered that one important thing which resulted in a lack of willpower was a lack of motivation, so motivation is necessary and is a key factor.
    • key = critical
  • The answer is E.

35. D

  • Keywords: affected, belief
  • In paragraph E it is stated that:  “This idea that our mental convictions can influence willpower was borne out by Veronika Job.”
    • beliefs = mental convictions
    • affect = influence
  • The answer is D.

36. A

  • Keywords: body, responds, examine
  • In paragraph C it is stated:  “Indeed, research by Matthew Gailliot suggests that willpower, even in the absence of physical activity, both requires and drains blood glucose levels, suggesting that willpower operates more or less like a ‘muscle’, and, like a muscle, requires fuel for optimum functioning.”
  • This research deals with the physical response of our body when we use willpower.  Our body has to maintain levels of glucose, as ‘fuel’ for willpower to operate/to be used.
  • The answer is A.

37. C

  • Keywords: important, make, track, goals
  • In paragraph F it is stated:  “In addition, Muraven emphasises the value of monitoring progress towards a desired result, such as by using a fitness journal, or keeping a record of savings toward a new purchase.”
    • making and tracking ~ monitoring progress
    • goal = desired result
  • The answer is C.

38. C

  • Keywords: please other, decrease
  • In paragraph E it is stated that:  “In another study, Mark Muraven found that those who felt compelled by an external authority to exert self-control experienced far greater rates of willpower depletion than those who identified their own reasons for taking a particular course of action.”  
  • Muraven found out that if one is forced to do something because another person wants him/her to do so, his/her level of willpower falls.  Those who make decisions for their own reasons – not to please others – have more  willpower.
    • others ~ external authority
    • the decrease in willpower = greater rates of willpower depletion
  • The answer is C.

39. B

  • Keywords: simple, positive thoughts, increase
  • In paragraph D, “Gregory M. Walton, for example, found that a single verbal cue – telling research participants how strenuous mental tasks could ‘energize’ them for further challenging activities – made a profound difference in terms of how much willpower participants could draw upon to complete the activity. Just as our willpower is easily drained by negative influences, it appears that willpower can also be boosted by other prompts, such as encouragement or optimistic self-talk.”
  • Walton discovered that willpower declines when there are negative influences, but simple positive things, like encouragement or being optimistic, increase willpower.
    • increase = boost
    • positive thoughts ~ encouragement and optimistic self-talk.
  • The answer is B.

Question 40

40. C

  • Keywords: not mentioned, factor, affected
  • These 3 options can be found in the passage:
  • – “In the short term, however, our ability to draw on willpower can fluctuate dramatically due to factors such as fatigue, diet and stress” => A
  • – “At the heart of any exercise of willpower, however, is the notion of ‘delayed gratification’, which involves resisting immediate satisfaction for a course that will yield greater or more permanent satisfaction in the long run.” => B
  • – “One of the most popular and effective methods simply involves avoiding willpower depletion triggers, and is based on the old adage, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  In one study, workers who kept a bowl of enticing candy on their desks were far more likely to indulge than those who placed it in a desk drawer”. => D
  • Therefore, the answer is C, which is not mentioned in the passage.

IELTS Reading British council

More IELTS Reading Passage 3

Leave a Reply