2000). In contrast is the theory that repeated acts of self-regulation lead to greater self-regulatory capacity, and this may be especially important among older adults. For example, Park et al. (1999) reported that older adults were more adherent in taking medication than middle-aged adults, in part because of lower levels of environmental demands. The increased regularity and predictability of everyday life for older adults may promote habit and self-regulation with age.
The issue of self-regulation must be addressed at multiple levels of analysis: from neurochemistry, neuroanatomy, brain systems, cognition, and emotion; to such familial and societal contexts as socioeconomic status and including gender, race, culture, and ethnicity. At each level, attention is needed to whatever encourages people to inhibit or exhibit certain behaviors, thoughts, or emotions. Research is needed to understand how neural and psychological processes involved in self-regulation may change with age and influence effective change.
A lack of cross-disciplinary interaction and communication among scientists may be one reason that there is still limited understanding of why and when self-regulation succeeds or fails. Social and developmental psychologists have developed complex theories and models of self-regulation, but these theories often fail to consider underlying neurobiological functions or structures. At the same time, neuroscientists have made tremendous gains in understanding the link between brain and behavior, but too often these findings are not informed by the social and cultural contexts that shape and guide human lives. Thus, research is needed that crosses levels of analysis, from molecular genetics to social psychology and sociology.
Moreover, further attention needs to be given to self-regulation outside of the laboratory, such as attempted changes in people’s lives (Heatherton and Nichols, 1994). There is consistent evidence that people are able to make important changes in their lives, and many people who do change do so without any form of professional assistance (Prochaska, Velicer, Guadagnoli, Rossi, and DiClemente, 1991). Indeed, Stanley Schachter (1982) observed that clinical studies provide an especially pessimistic assessment of change, in that he found that most individuals who had lost substantial amounts of weight and kept it off or who had quit smoking had done so without formal treatment. Similarly, there is evidence that those who curb problematic drinking do so on their own, without formal treatment of any kind (Peele, 1989). Even those with serious drug dependencies, including alcoholism and heroin addiction, are able to change or alter their problematic behaviors (Klingemann, 1991; Sobell, 1991). Still, there is a surprising paucity of information about the factors that predict change in natural environments, and this may be especially relevant as people become older. Schachter (1982) observed that a greater number of attempts to lose