Self-regulatory failure: a resource-depletion approach

Psychol Sci. 2000 May;11(3):249-54. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00250.


Three studies were conducted to test the behavioral consequences of effortful self-regulation. Individuals with chronic inhibitions about eating were exposed to situations varying in level of self-regulatory demand. Subsequently, participants' ability to self-regulate was measured. Two studies manipulated self-regulatory demand by exposing participants to good-tasting snack foods, whereas a third study required participants to control their emotional expressions. As hypothesized, exerting self-control during the first task led to decrements in self-control on a subsequent task. Moreover, these effects were not due to changes in affective state and occurred only when self-control was required in the first task. These findings are explained in terms of depletion of self-regulatory resources, which impairs successful volitional control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Field Dependence-Independence
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Problem Solving
  • Taste