Getting a grip on ourselves: Challenging expectancies about loss of energy after self-control

C. Martijn, P. Tenbült, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach, E.A.A. Dreezens, N.K. de Vries

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Abstract

Research suggests that two, consecutive acts of self-control lead to impaired performance. This phenomenon is termed "ego depletion." It is assumed that an act of self-control consumes energy from some limited resource leaving less energy available for a subsequent act of self-control. Study 1 tested the alternative hypothesis that people's naive theory or expectancy of the consequences of self-control influences their performance on control-demanding tasks. Participants watched an upsetting video fragment and subsequently performed a physical exercise test demanding self-control. Participants who suppressed their emotional reactions to the video showed ego-depletion: Their performance at the physical test decreased. However, if their (implicit) expectation that self-control negatively influences subsequent performance was challenged, their performance increased. Study 2 showed the existence of a dominant expectation that self-control consumes energy. These results indicate that the occurrence of the ego depletion phenomenon is strongly influenced by expectancies or schemata about self-control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-446
JournalSocial Cognition
Volume20
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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