Dr. Nathan DeWall

Keynote Speaker

View Recording

Taming the Impulsive Beast: Self-Control as Our Greatest Human Strength


When asked to consider their heroes, many people list inspirational figures who

overcame tremendous odds to achieve success. Maybe they are Albert Einstein, Sally Ride,

Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the Beatles. We place these people

on pedestals because they share a common human strength: self-control. This talk discusses

research that links self-control to individual, relational, and societal well-being. First, I define self-

control and make a case for its role in personal, relationship, and societal well-being. Second, I

discuss how self-control relies on a limited energy resource that becomes depleted after prior

use. Third, I demonstrate the interplay between self-control and personality, biological, and social

processes. Throughout the talk, I provide useful activities that challenge undergraduates to

reconsider factors that contribute to their academic, personal, and relationship success.

Dr. Nathan DeWall is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College, a master’s degree in social science from the University of Chicago, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in social psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching.


The Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” early in his career for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.” He is in the top 1 percent of all cited scientists in psychology and psychiatry on the Institute for Scientific Information list, according to the Web of Science.


DeWall conducts research on close relationships, self-control, and aggression. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation, he has earned over 200 publications. DeWall’s research awards include the SAGE Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology, the Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Research on Aggression, and the Early Career Award from the International Society for Self and Identity. His research has been covered by numerous media outlets, including Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harvard Business Review, USA Today, National Public Radio, the BBC, and The Guardian. He has lectured nationally and internationally, including in Hong Kong, China, the Netherlands, England, Greece, Hungary, Sweden, and Australia. He regularly writes for the New York Times and Quartz.


Nathan is happily married to Alice DeWall and is the proud father of Beverly “Bevy” and Ellis. He enjoys playing with his two golden retrievers, Finnegan and Atticus. In his spare time, he writes novels, watches sports, flies hang gliders, and was a competitive ultramarathon runner. In 2017, he completed the Badwater 135 (dubbed “the World’s toughest foot race”). He currently plays in a rock n' roll band, where he plays guitar and sings.