Your Letters: 'Willpower' Depleted

Several listeners wrote about host Audie Cornish's conversation with author John Tierney on his book, Willpower, last week. Many said they found the background noise of the piece to be distracting, so we've welcomed Tierney back to go over some of the more salient points of his book.

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To your letters now. Several of you wrote in last week about my conversation with author John Tierney on his book "Willpower."

JOHN TIERNEY: And our just sitting here with these cupcakes, by not eating them - I'm looking at that, and it looks really good. And just sitting next to it is depleting my willpower.

CORNISH: Barbara Lawrence of Englewood, New Jersey, wrote: Were you testing our willpower to stay tuned with the background noise? I used up all mine for the day for the week. Bring on those cupcakes.

Let's call it a rookie mistake. And we heard you, so we invited John Tierney back to offer some of the more salient points of his book, without any distractions.

TIERNEY: Willpower really is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it during the day. But over time, you can increase your stamina through regular exercise. Simple exercises like forcing yourself to sit up straight, or using your left hand for something that you ordinarily use your right hand for - those have been shown in experiments to improve self-control for all kinds of other tasks in your life.

CORNISH: Wow, my mother will be very happy that you said that - that about sitting up straight.

TIERNEY: It does work, and it works for all kinds of things that don't involve posture at all.

CORNISH: So that was one technique. And then the other thing is about conserving it, right? Ensure that you build your day in a way so that you don't have to use your willpower.

TIERNEY: Right, it's a finite source of energy. And if you can conserve it, it's as good as strengthening it. Some of the new research shows that people with the best self-control are the ones who actually exercise it least during the day - because they don't go to all-you-can eat buffets, so they don't have to exercise their willpower.

CORNISH: That was New York Times science writer John Tierney, co-author of the book "Willpower."

Last week, after the Republican presidential candidates sparred over the HPV vaccine at a debate, we turned to a doctor to learn more about the vaccine and its effects.

CORNISH: I was happy to hear the subject addressed. However, I would have liked the guest to spend time talking about how men can also carry HPV strains, either passing them on to women or having breakouts themselves. It is important that men know they are at risk as well.

Finally, last Sunday, we spoke with the hosts of the NPR podcast AltLatino, who shared some of their favorite new music from Brazil.


CORNISH: Hundreds of you shared that story on Facebook, and many of you commented online - like Abby Schuler, who wrote: I love bossa nova and samba. And it was great to be introduced to some of the new sounds. Who knew I love Brazilian rap? Thanks, guys.


CORNISH: We like hearing from you. Go to, and click the link that says Contact Us. Or find us on Facebook @nprweekend.

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