Ego depletion--is it all in your head? implicit theories about willpower affect self-regulation.

Published on Nov 1, 2010in Psychological Science4.902
· DOI :10.1177/0956797610384745
Veronika Job15
Estimated H-index: 15
(Stanford University),
Carol S. Dweck80
Estimated H-index: 80
(Stanford University),
Gregory M. Walton30
Estimated H-index: 30
(Stanford University)
Much recent research suggests that willpower—the capacity to exert self-control—is a limited resource that is depleted after exertion. We propose that whether depletion takes place or not depends on a person’s belief about whether willpower is a limited resource. Study 1 found that individual differences in lay theories about willpower moderate ego-depletion effects: People who viewed the capacity for self-control as not limited did not show diminished self-control after a depleting experience. Study 2 replicated the effect, manipulating lay theories about willpower. Study 3 addressed questions about the mechanism underlying the effect. Study 4, a longitudinal field study, found that theories about willpower predict change in eating behavior, procrastination, and self-regulated goal striving in depleting circumstances. Taken together, the findings suggest that reduced self-control after a depleting task or during demanding periods may reflect people’s beliefs about the availability of willpower rather than true resource depletion.
Figures & Tables
  • References (25)
  • Citations (486)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
464 Citations
1,296 Citations
1,138 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Michael InzlichtH-Index: 45
Past research shows that self-control is limited and becomes depleted after initial exertions. This study examined the neural processes underlying self-control failure by testing whether controlled, effortful behavior impairs subsequent attempts at control by depleting the neural system associated with conflict monitoring. Subjects either watched an emotional movie normally or tried to suppress their emotions while watching the movie; they then completed an ostensibly unrelated Stroop task while...
265 Citations
#1Ralf SchwarzerH-Index: 69
#2Manfred DiehlH-Index: 29
Last. Gerdamarie S. SchmitzH-Index: 9
view all 3 authors...
27 CitationsSource
#1Joshua J. Clarkson (IU: Indiana University Bloomington)H-Index: 14
#2Edward R. Hirt (IU: Indiana University Bloomington)H-Index: 26
Last. Marla B. Alexander (BSU: Ball State University)H-Index: 1
view all 4 authors...
152 CitationsSource
#1Eli J. Finkel (NU: Northwestern University)H-Index: 48
#2C. Nathan DeWall (UK: University of Kentucky)H-Index: 46
Last. Vangie A. Foshee (UNC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)H-Index: 43
view all 5 authors...
Five studies tested the hypothesis that self-regulatory failure is an important predictor of intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration. Study 1 participants were far more likely to experience a violent impulse during conflictual interaction with their romantic partner than they were to enact a violent behavior, suggesting that self-regulatory processes help individuals refrain from perpetrating IPV when they experience a violent impulse. Study 2 participants high in dispositional self-control...
260 CitationsSource
#1Peter Fischer (University of Exeter)H-Index: 25
#2Tobias Greitemeyer (University of Sussex)H-Index: 37
Last. Dieter Frey (LMU: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)H-Index: 41
view all 3 authors...
In the present research, the authors investigated the impact of self-regulation resources on confirmatory information processing, that is, the tendency of individuals to systematically prefer standpoint-consistent information to standpoint-inconsistent information in information evaluation and search. In 4 studies with political and economic decision-making scenarios, it was consistently found that individuals with depleted self-regulation resources exhibited a stronger tendency for confirmatory...
109 CitationsSource
#1Roy F. Baurneister (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 133
#2Kathleen D. Vohs (UMN: University of Minnesota)H-Index: 66
Motivation is underappr eciated in self-r egulation theories (as is tr ue in social personality psychology at large). This paper reviews the role of motivation in the context of the strength, or limited-resource, model of self-control in several domains. Sacrificing one desire in order to pursue another is more difficult when the incipient response is strongly motivated, a notion that highlights the struggle between urges and restraints. A reduction in ego resources can be temporarily overcome b...
502 CitationsSource
#1Matthew T. Gailliot (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 20
#2Roy F. Baurneister (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 133
Past research indicates that self-control relies on some sort of limited energy source. This review suggests that blood glucose is one important part of the energy source of self-control. Acts of self-control deplete relatively large amounts of glucose. Self-control failures are more likely when glucose is low or cannot be mobilized effectively to the brain (i.e., when insulin is low or insensitive). Restoring glucose to a sufficient level typically improves self-control. Numerous self-control b...
415 CitationsSource
#1Roy F. Baurneister (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 133
#2Kathleen D. Vohs (UMN: University of Minnesota)H-Index: 66
Last. Dianne M. Tice (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 40
view all 3 authors...
Self-control is a central function of the self and an important key to success in life. The exertion of self-control appears to depend on a limited resource. Just as a muscle gets tired from exertion, acts of self-control cause short-term impairments (ego depletion) in subsequent self-control, even on unrelated tasks. Research has supported the strength model in the domains of eating, drinking, spending, sexuality, intelligent thought, making choices, and interpersonal behavior. Motivational or ...
1,402 CitationsSource
#1Dianne M. Tice (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 40
#2Roy F. Baurneister (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 133
Last. Mark Muraven (University at Albany, SUNY)H-Index: 27
view all 4 authors...
Previous work has shown that acts of self-regulation appear to deplete a psychological resource, resulting in poorer self-regulation subsequently. Four experiments using assorted manipulations and measures found that positive mood or emotion can counteract ego depletion. After an initial act of self-regulation, participants who watched a comedy video or received a surprise gift self-regulated on various tasks as well as non-depleted participants and significantly better than participants who exp...
496 CitationsSource
#1Matthew T. Gailliot (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 20
#2Roy F. Baurneister (FSU: Florida State University)H-Index: 133
Last. Brandon J. Schmeichel (A&M: Texas A&M University)H-Index: 33
view all 8 authors...
The present work suggests that self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source. Laboratory tests of self-control (i.e., the Stroop task, thought suppression, emotion regulation, attention control) and of social behaviors (i.e., helping behavior, coping with thoughts of death, stifling prejudice during an interracial interaction) showed that (a) acts of self-control reduced blood glucose levels, (b) low levels of blood glucose after an initial self-control task predicted poor performanc...
845 CitationsSource
Cited By486
#1Marleen Gillebaart (UU: Utrecht University)H-Index: 9
#2Jeroen S. Benjamins (UU: Utrecht University)H-Index: 11
Last. Denise T. D. de Ridder (UU: Utrecht University)H-Index: 51
view all 5 authors...
Abstract People repeatedly encounter response conflicts (i.e., self-control dilemmas between long-term and short-term goals). A longitudinal study was conducted to investigate how resolution of response conflict develops over time. Participants pursued a long-term goal. The design entailed pre- and post-measurements, as well as daily/weekly measures using a mobile application over a range of 10-110 days. Of the 180 people participating in the pre-measurement, 90 also completed the post-measureme...
#1Jeni L. Burnette (NCSU: North Carolina State University)H-Index: 17
#2Alexandra D. Babij (NCSU: North Carolina State University)H-Index: 1
Last. Laura E. Knouse (UR: University of Richmond)H-Index: 12
view all 4 authors...
#1Jessica O'Brien (University of Gloucestershire)H-Index: 1
#2John K Parker (University of Gloucestershire)H-Index: 6
Last. Simon M Fryer (University of Gloucestershire)H-Index: 14
view all 4 authors...
This study examined the effects of ego depletion on challenge and threat states and cerebral haemodynamic responses to a pressurized muscular endurance task requiring self-control. Following ethical approval, 58 participants (39 males, 19 females; Mage = 28 years, SD = 12) were randomly assigned to either an experimental or control group. Participants then completed self-report measures of trait anxiety and self-control. Next, the experimental group performed a written transcription task requiri...
1 CitationsSource
#1Lara Carminati (University of Surrey)H-Index: 1
Abstract Over the last two decades behavioural economics has gained much momentum among scholars because of its innovative and controversial ways of explaining processes and mechanisms underpinning individuals’ judgements and decision making. Thanks to these features, behavioural economics has been applied to diversified domains, namely finance, public choice and marketing. Although the intrinsic characteristics of the health care sector, ranging from incomplete and asymmetrical information to h...
#1Junhua Dang (Uppsala University)
#2Paul Barker (University of Cologne)
Last. Lianne de Vries (VU: VU University Amsterdam)H-Index: 1
view all 36 authors...
There is an active debate regarding whether the ego depletion effect is real. A recent preregistered experiment with the Stroop task as the depleting task and the antisaccade task as the outcome ta...
#1Iman Feghhi (UCR: University of California, Riverside)H-Index: 2
#2David A. Rosenbaum (UCR: University of California, Riverside)H-Index: 43
Little is known about how effort is represented for different kinds of tasks. Recently, we suggested that it would help to establish empirical benchmarks for this problem. Accordingly, Feghhi and Rosenbaum (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45:983-994, 2019) estimated how many additional digits to be memorized corresponded to navigating through a narrow gap versus a wide gap. The estimates were based on a study in which participants chose between walking paths...
#1Jan Jędrzejczyk (University of Warsaw)
#2Marcin Zajenkowski (University of Warsaw)H-Index: 11
Recently, the most prominent model of self-control, the strength model, was criticized, and other explanations of self-control have been proposed. One of them is a concept of lay, implicit, willpower theories, that is, believing either that willpower is limited (as in the strength model) or nonlimited. Research shows that holding a nonlimited-resource belief prevents individuals from suffering ego depletion and is related to successful self-regulation. The current study explored how personality,...
#1Anouk van der Weiden (LEI: Leiden University)H-Index: 6
#1Anouk van der Weiden (LEI: Leiden University)
Last. Denise T. D. de Ridder (UU: Utrecht University)H-Index: 51
view all 5 authors...
When striving for long-term goals (e.g., healthy eating, saving money, reducing energy consumption, or maintaining interpersonal relationships), people often get in conflict with their short-term goals (e.g., tempting snacks, must-haves, getting warm, or being preoccupied with one’s own interests). Previous research suggests that people who are successful in controlling their behavior in line with their long-term goals rely on effortless strategies, such as good habits. In the present study, we ...
Creative mindsets reflect the implicit beliefs individuals hold regarding the nature of creativity as innate (i.e., fixed mindset) or malleable (i.e., growth mindset). Karwowski (2014) developed the Creative Mindsets Scale (CMS) in which fixed or growth creative mindset was each measured with 5 items. Across three studies, the current study aimed to examine its psychometric properties in Chinese settings, and to explore to what extent effects of creative mindsets on creativity were generalized t...