Study of IDF troops finds controlling urges linked to mental resilience


An intricate link between the control of one’s automatic urges and between one’s psychological resilience and mood variations has been discovered in a Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) study on IDF soldiers in basic training.

“Inhibitory control” (IC) is a basic executive function that involves the control of attention, behavior, thoughts, and emotions) by pausing and then using attention and reasoning to respond appropriately.

It involves our ability to think before we react. Notably, the connection between an individual’s capacity for IC and their day-to-day mood is significantly shaped by their underlying level of psychological resilience, said Prof. Mor Nahum and Prof. Yafit Gilboa, along with their research team from HU’s Faculty of Medicine and the IDF’s Medical Corps. Their “pioneering study” has just been published in Nature’s Scientific Reports under the title “Inhibitory Control and Mood in Relation to Psychological Resilience: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study.”

It sheds light on the intricate relationship among inhibitory control, changes in mood, and psychological resilience – underscoring the complex interplay between cognitive functions and emotional reactions and providing invaluable insights into the manifestation of resilient behavior in daily life.

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip on December 30, 2023 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

How good and bad moods are linked to inhibitory control

This research is the first of its kind to investigate daily variations in IC and performance concerning resilience. The two main types of moods are positive ones and are created when people are happy, excited, or enthusiastic about events taking place in their lives.

Negative ones include feelings of being scared, anxious, annoyed, or depressed and are more impactful to the work environment. The ability to “bounce back” from a stressful or chronic event further involves coping with one’s emotions in an adverse situation.

Better mental resilience was shown to be linked with good mental health, while reduced resilience is connected with an increased risk for disturbances in mental health that could lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


As such, they wrote, studying the factors that contribute to resilience is expected to further elucidate the potential effects of adverse life events on mental well-being.

Importantly, the study was conducted in a unique field setting – on 144 female and male soldiers during their basic combat training. Initial resilience measurements were obtained as a baseline. Participants were then assessed over a two-week period, using an app installed on their mobile phones. This assessment involved daily reporting of their momentary emotional state together with short IC assessments conducted twice a day.

The role of psychological resilience as moderator

In a new revelation brought forth by comprehensive modeling analysis, a major discovery emerged from the study research – psychological resilience plays a pivotal role as a moderator between momentary inhibitory control and mood dynamics.

This study uncovered a significant correlation – heightened IC was directly linked to an improved mood, but this positive influence on momentary mood was observed only among individuals who initially reported higher levels of psychological resilience.

This finding shed light on the crucial role of psychological resilience in determining how effectively IC impacts our day-to-day emotional state. “Our study highlights a nuanced relationship among psychological resilience, IC, and daily mood fluctuations,” Nahum explained. “The association between IC and mood is distinctly influenced by an individual’s baseline resilience levels, offering profound insights into the manifestation of resilient behavior in everyday life and novel understanding [of] mechanisms of resilience.”

Gilboa added that “these findings significantly bolster cognitive control models of resilience, which, to our knowledge, were thus far only tested in lab settings, and no study to date has explored daily fluctuations of IC performance in relation to resilience. Here, we tested them ecologically and repeatedly in field settings.

“Understanding how psychological resilience intertwines with cognitive processes in daily life can reshape our comprehension of resilient behavior, offering potential pathways for real-life applications.

”This research not only advances our comprehension of psychological resilience but also underscores the intricate dynamics between cognitive mechanisms and emotional responses. The study’s implications hold promise for a range of fields – from mental health interventions to managing stress,” Gilboa concluded.

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