Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: does self-control resemble a muscle?

Psychol Bull. 2000 Mar;126(2):247-59. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.126.2.247.


The authors review evidence that self-control may consume a limited resource. Exerting self-control may consume self-control strength, reducing the amount of strength available for subsequent self-control efforts. Coping with stress, regulating negative affect, and resisting temptations require self-control, and after such self-control efforts, subsequent attempts at self-control are more likely to fail. Continuous self-control efforts, such as vigilance, also degrade over time. These decrements in self-control are probably not due to negative moods or learned helplessness produced by the initial self-control attempt. These decrements appear to be specific to behaviors that involve self-control; behaviors that do not require self-control neither consume nor require self-control strength. It is concluded that the executive component of the self--in particular, inhibition--relies on a limited, consumable resource.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Depression / psychology
  • Helplessness, Learned
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Motivation*
  • Physical Exertion