Recent investigations have shown that exerting self control reduces the ability to regulate behaviour in subsequent self control tasks. A state of depleted self control resources is known as ‘ego depletion’ and the purpose of this study was to see how our capacity to inhibit urges can be affected by ego depletion. This study was also done to test the effects of beliefs about self control on subsequent performance in self control tasks. Participants’ performance on the Stroop task and phonemic fluency task and subjective feelings of tiredness were assessed before and after an ego depletion task, one group was primed to believe that self control resources are limited whereas the other group was primed to believe they were unlimited. Results showed significant differences in performance for the Stroop task, phonemic task and tiredness levels and significant differences in performance under the two conditions. These results support the notion that subsequent performance in self control tasks will be hindered and priming participants will have an effect on the performance in following tasks, however, other explanations for these effects are also discussed.
The human ability for self control has been much more widespread than any other animal; this suggests that the evolutionary pressures that guided the selection of traits that make up human nature must have found self control to be a powerful and imperative skill for survival, with many functions (Baumeister, 2005, as cited in Gailliot et al., 2007). Self control is a central function of the self and an important key to success in life. Self control has attracted increasing attention from psychologists because understanding it will allow us to understand the nature and function of the self and self control also has many practical implications (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007). A lot of recent studies have focused on the strength model (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998). This model proposes that there is a limited store of self control resources, acts of self control cause short term impairments (ego depletion) in subsequent acts of self control (even on unrelated tasks) (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007). For example, after resisting the temptation to eat freshly baked cookies, participants in one study quit sooner on a subsequent task requiring effortful persistence, compared with participants who did not have to resist eating the cookies (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998).
Recent investigations have shown that the state of ego depletion can be counteracted by replenishing the resource through rest and relaxation (Tyler & Burns, 2008, as cited in Hagger, Wood, Stiff, & Chatzisarantis, 2010), vicarious restoration (Egan, Hirt, & Karpen, 2012) or by consuming a glucose product (Gailliot et al., 2007). Inadequate self control has been linked to risky and impulsive behaviour (Sultan, Joireman, & Sprott, 2011; Unger & Stahlberg, 2011), and the promotion of unethical behaviour (Gino, Schweitzer, Mead, & Ariely, 2011).
The aims and rationale of the current study is to test the effects of ego depletion on self control and whether beliefs about self control will have make a difference to subsequent performance in self control tasks. Participants carried out two tasks in which they had to exert a degree of self control in order to successfully complete them. Shortly after, they were given a short ego depletion task. Participants were then instructed to carry out the same tasks, with different components, under different conditions (limited or unlimited). The subjective tiredness of the participants was recorded before and after the ego depletion task. The hypotheses are to see whether ego depletion will increase responses times on the Stroop test, reduce the number of words produced in the phonemic fluency test and increase subjective feelings of tiredness and whether priming participants to believe that self control...
References: Baumeister, R.F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M, & Tice, D.M. (1998). Ego depletion; is the active self a limited resource. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252-1265
Baumeister, R.F., Vohs, K.D., & Tice, D.M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(6), 351-355
Egan, P.M., Hirt, E.R., & Karpen, S.C. (2012). Taking a fresh perspective: vicarious restoration as a means of recovering self-control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(2), 457-465
Gailliot, M.T., & Baumeister, R.F. (2007). The physiology of willpower: linking blood glucose to self-control. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11(4), 303-327
Gino, F., Schweitzer, M.E., Mead, N.L., & Ariely, D. (2011) Unable to resist temptation: how self-control depletion promotes unethical behaviour. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 115(2), 191-203
Hagger, M.S., Wood, C., Stiff, C., & Chatzisarantis, N.L.D. (2010). Ego depletion and the strength model of self-control: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(4), 495-525
Sultan, A.J., Joireman, J., & Sprott, D.E. (2012). Building consumer self-control: the effect of self-control exercises on impulse buying urges. Marketing Letters, 23(1), 61-72
Unger, A., & Stahlberg, D. (2011). Ego-depletion and risk behaviour: too exhausted to take a risk. Social Psychology, 42(1), 28-38
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