Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Ego depletion and motivation

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How Does Ego Depletion Affect Our Motivation?
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The Conservation Hypothesis[edit]

  • Ego depletion may involve temporary depletion of body's caloric energy supplies (Galliot et al., 2007).
  • Glucose is the primary source of energy for all brain activity and therefore a decline in glucose may negatively affect executive functioning (Siesjö, 1978).
  • The conservation hypothesis explains that back up sources of glucose, even when most of our stores are depleted, can still be used to motivate.
  • Subconsciously, we preserve most of our self-control for future emergencies and high demands. For example, a tired athlete who starts conserving energy long before he or she is completely exhausted, the self-regulator may begin to cut back on effortful, biologically expensive exertions long before the capacity is fully depleted (Baumeister et al., 2007).
  • Ego strength is a limited resource surprisingly, as many, if not all of us, in our daily lives use it to cover our true indentites and weaknesses such as anxieties and depression. So if individuals who use much of their ego strenghth everyday, does this mean they consume more high glucose foods?

Behavioural and Motivational Consequences[edit]

Mental Effort on Goal-Adherence[edit]

  • Chronic ego depletion increases the likelihood of behaviour regulation failure, suggesting that it is difficult for people in an ego-depletion state to adhere to goals (Wang et al., 2015). This requires an executive control process in which people must expend mental effort (Hofmann et al., 2009).
  • Thus this effects self-control as it requires substantial mental effort. People who expect to engage in self-control in the future have a stronger desire to conserve their limited self-control resources, especially when they have previously engaged in a self-control task (Muraven et al., 2006).
  • Depleted individuals are less optimistic about their abilities, have a lower sense of control, and are less optimistic about the future (Fischer et al., 2007). Indeed, depleted individuals set lower standards for themselves and had less confidence in their ability to reach a goal than non-depleted individuals (DeBono & Muraven, 2009).
  • It was hypothesised that chronic ego depletion adversely affects an individual’s performance, motivation, and mental effort with respect to goal directed behavior. However results show chronic ego depletion was inversely related to performance and positively related to mental effort. The results did not reveal a significant association between chronic ego depletion and motivation for behavior change. Researchers also tested whether the influences of chronic ego depletion were a function of shared variance with life events or task property. With life events and targets controlled, chronic ego depletion maintained an inverse relationship with performance and a positive relationship with mental effort (Wang et al., 2015).

Chronic Ego Depletion SRF

Loss of Self-Control[edit]

  • According to the limited strength model, failure of self-control emerges as a consequence of limited resources (Muraven et al., 1998; Muraven & Baumeister, 2000).
  • Based on an early study in 2004, psychologists used different manipulations of self-control (thought suppression, emotion regulation, impulse control, deliberate decision making and memory tasks) to examine that people repeatedly exert self-control within a relatively short period of time, and performance on a subsequent act of self-control is likely to decrease.
  • Although the limited strength model does not state anything about time affecting self-control, the current study is related to this model. In a short period of time minimal resources are presented, as it is a short period of time, and we cannot make use of them well.
  • However we need to learn how to make use of these resources efficiently since there is a minimal amount presented, so that self-control does not fail so we have discipline.

Self-Determination Theory[edit]

  • Amotivation is a relative absence of motivation, while intrinsically motivated behaviors are performed because of personal interest or enjoyment ()
  • Introjected regulation out of the 3 other types of regulations is not considered self-determined behavior, because external rewards or consequences from the past have made their way into the person’s belief system, but they have an external perceived locus of causality (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Vallerand & Ratelle, 2002).

Incentives Play Major Role in Motivation[edit]

  • Muraven and Slessareva's study was the first to examine whether motivation plays a key role in the ego depletion effect. They observed that such depletion was overcome when participants were offered a financial incentive to perform a second self-control task. The effect of financial incentives in Muraven and Slessareva’s study in overcoming the ego depletion effect may arise because depleted participants expend more effort as a result of the additional reward for self-control at Time 2 (Muraven & Slessareva, 2003).
  • Hence a financial incentive increases an individual’s external motivation, whereas interest is involved in internal motivation.

Interpersonal Effects[edit]

  • Research is increasingly showing that interpersonal relationships are one of the most common depleting areas based on poor self-control leading to ego depletion.
  • Vohs and colleagues have proved that individuals who exert their ego as a means of self-presentation, compared to individuals who act naturally, are unable to regulate emotions properly leading to poor self control, as maintaining self presentation generally involves great self-control (Vohs et al., 2005).

Effects on Cognition[edit]

  • Although depleted individuals have depleted mental efficiency, this also surprisingly applies to non-depleted individuals.
  • Depleted individuals do worse on tests of logic and reasoning, reading comprehension, and a general test of fluid cognitive functioning than non-depleted individuals (Schmeichel et al., 2003).
  • The most common feature exhibited by depleted individuals is trouble in emotion regulation. This appears to affect working memory and performance on tests that require this ability considered to require substantial executive control and response inhibition.
  • Another aspect of functioning depletion affects is basic decision making tasks in our daily lives. These individuals rely to a greater extent than non-depleted individuals on heuristics and fail to consider all options carefully in a consumer decision making tasks, which lead to a sub-optimal decision (Masicampo & Baumeister, 2008; Pocheptsova et al., 2009).
  • This aspect leads to higher risk taking which poses a stronger threat to depleted individuals. The link between negative affect and risk taking was also found to be partially mediated by depletion — people‟s attempt to regulate their negative moods is depleting and this depletion leads to greater risk taking (Bruyneel et al., 2009).

See also[edit]


Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2007). Self-Regulation, Ego Depletion, and Motivation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 125. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00001.x

Bruyneel, S. D., Dewitte, S., Franses, P. H., & Dekimpe, M. G. (2009). I felt low and my purse feels light: Depleting mood regulation attempts affect risk decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 22, 153-170.

DeBono, A. & Muraven, M. (2009). Where’s the trust? How self-control depletion undermines confidence in ability. Unpublished manuscript.

Fischer P, Greitemeyer T, & Frey D. (2007). Ego depletion and positive illusions: Does the construction of positivity require regulatory resources Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33.

Gailliot, M. T., & Baumeister, R. F. (2007). The physiology of willpower: Linking blood glucose to self-control. Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Heilman, A.M. (2016). Relationship Between Autonomous Motivation and Ego-Depletion. Walden University ScholarWorks 21.

Hofmann W, Friese M, & Roefs A. (2009). Three ways to resist temptation: The independent contributions of executive attention, inhibitory control, and affect regulation to the impulse control of eating behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2008.09.013

Masicampo, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2008). Toward a physiology of dual-process reasoning and judgment: Lemonade, willpower, and expensive rule-based analysis. Psychological Science, 19, 255-260.

Muraven, M., Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Self-control as limited resource: Regulatory depletion patterns. Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 74, 774-789. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.774

Muraven, M. & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126, 247- 259. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.126.2.247

Muraven M, Slessareva E. (2003). Mechanisms of self-control failure: Motivation and limited resources. Personality & social psychology bulletin. 2003. doi: 10.1177/0146167203029007008.

Muraven M, Shmueli D, & Burkley E. (2006). Conserving self-control strength. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Pocheptsova, A., Amir, O., Dhar, R., & Baumeister, R. (2009). Deciding without resources: Resource depletion and choice in context. Journal of Marketing Research, 46, 344-355.

Richard, R., & Rochester, U. (2000). Figure 1. The Self-Determination Continuum Showing Types of Motivation With Their Regulatory Styles, Loci of Causality, and Corresponding Processes [Image]. Retrieved from

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Schmeichel, B. J., Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2003). Intellectual performance and ego depletion: Role of the self in logical reasoning and other information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 33-46.

Siesjö, B. K. (1978). Brain energy metabolism. Chichester ; New York: Wiley

Vallerand, R. J., & Ratelle, C. F. (2002). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: A hierarchical model. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research, 37-63.

Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., & Ciarocco, N. J. (2005). Self-regulation and self-presentation: Regulatory resource depletion impairs impression management and effortful self presentation depletes regulatory resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 632-657.

Wang L, Tao T, Fan C, Gao W, & Wei C. (2015). The Influence of Chronic Ego Depletion on Goal Adherence: An Experience Sampling Study. PLoS One doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142220

External links[edit]