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E.J. Masicampo - Wake Forest University. Winston-Salem, NC, US

E.J. Masicampo E.J. Masicampo

Associate Professor of Psychology | Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC, UNITED STATES

Masicampo’s research focuses on willpower, goal setting, and the psychology behind resisting temptation.


E. J. Masicampo’s research focuses on the psychology behind resisting temptation, making difficult decisions, and reaching goals. From keeping New Year’s resolutions to making moral judgments, Masicampo explores “effortful mental processes” and how they work. His research can be applied to everything from professional development to dieting to establishing a fitness routine to developing better study habits. Based on his research, he can explain how willpower works and what strengthens or weakens it. He studies how making plans can help achieve goals and can describe the essential elements of a successful plan.

Masicampo has been interviewed by several media outlets, including The Economist, Forbes, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. His studies have been published in leading academic journals, including Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Psychological Review.

Masicampo’s work applies to setting and reaching academic and personal goals. It also has implications for the workplace and how to use mental energy more efficiently to complete tasks. His experiments address such questions as: How do one’s surroundings influence one’s ability to diet or meet other goals? What determines the contents of one’s thoughts? How does energy from food influence one’s ability to think and make decisions? How does observing others’ behaviors affect one’s ability to exert self-control? How do perceptions of free will and responsibility affect one’s willingness to engage in mentally effortful tasks?

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Masicampo found that committing to a specific plan to accomplish a goal not only makes it more likely to be done, but also gets it off your mind so you can think about other things. He can also address such topics as self-control, decision fatigue, how people make moral judgments and the effects of keeping secrets.

Areas of Expertise (6)



Goal Setting

Plan Making


Social Psychology





E.J. Masicampo poses for photo. loading image



Education (4)

Tufts University: Post Doctoral Research, Psychology

Florida State University: Ph.D., Psychology

Florida State University: M.S., Psychology

University of California, Santa Barbara: B.A., Psychology

Media Appearances (5)

Write your plans in pencil: Rigidity is lethal



An interesting study conducted by E.J. Masicampo with Florida State University has demonstrated the importance of flexibility in achieving goals, and adapting to changing circumstances without being permanently bent out of shape. What he found was that while committing to a specific plan for a goal can improve the chances of success, it may also cause you to be less flexible and not see alternative means to better meet the goal...

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Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century

Financial Times  


This method has a cult following, and practical experience suggests that many people find it enormously helpful — including me (see below). Only recently, however, did the psychologists E J Masicampo and Roy Baumeister find some academic evidence to explain why people find relief by using David Allen’s system. Masicampo and Baumeister found that you don’t need to complete a task to banish the Zeigarnik effect. Making a specific plan will do just as well. Write down your next action and you quiet that nagging voice at the back of your head. You are outsourcing your anxiety to a piece of paper...

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Can psychology fix its reproducibility problem?

The Christian Science Monitor  


Project workers tried to minimize such differences, but matching an original study could be tricky. E.J. Masicampo of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a co-author of the new study, said one of his own experiments was not confirmed by the project...

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New study says studies are wrong

NY Daily News  


One study author who participated in the project as both a reviewer and reviewee was E.J. Masicampo, assistant professor at Wake Forest College in North Carolina.

She was part of a team that was able to replicate a study that found people who are faced with a confrontational task, like having to play a violent video game, prefer to listen to angry music and think about negative experiences beforehand.

But when outside researchers tried to replicate Masicampo's own study — which hypothesized that a sugary drink can help college students do better at making a complicated decision — they were not successful...

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Ashley Madison leak reveals secrets better left unseen

CBC's The Current  


If there's a cost to keeping a secret... the same can be said for learning of one. E. J. Masicampo is an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina...

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Articles (5)

A peculiar prevalence of p values just below. 05 Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

In null hypothesis significance testing (NHST), p values are judged relative to an arbitrary threshold for significance (. 05). The present work examined whether that standard influences the distribution of p values reported in the psychology literature. We examined a large subset of papers from three highly regarded journals...

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Do conscious thoughts cause behavior? Annual Review of Psychology

Everyday intuitions suggest full conscious control of behavior, but evidence of unconscious causation and automaticity has sustained the contrary view that conscious thought has little or no impact on behavior. We review studies with random assignment to experimental manipulations of conscious thought and behavioral dependent measures...

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Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Laypersons' belief in free will may foster a sense of thoughtful reflection and willingness to exert energy, thereby promoting helpfulness and reducing aggression, and so disbelief in free will may make behavior more reliant on selfish, automatic impulses and therefore less socially desirable...

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Evidence that logical reasoning depends on conscious processing Consciousness and Cognition

Humans, unlike other animals, are equipped with a powerful brain that permits conscious awareness and reflection. A growing trend in psychological science has questioned the benefits of consciousness, however...

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Toward a physiology of dual-process reasoning and judgment: Lemonade, willpower, and expensive rule-based analysis Psychological Science

This experiment used the attraction effect to test the hypothesis that ingestion of sugar can reduce reliance on intuitive, heuristic-based decision making. In the attraction effect, a difficult choice between two options is swayed by the presence of a seemingly irrelevant “decoy” option...

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