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Individual Differences and Self-Regulatory Fatigue: Optimism, Conscientiousness, and Self-Consciousness


Individual Differences and Self-Regulatory Fatigue: Optimism, Conscientiousness, and Self-Consciousness

Lise Solberg Nes et al. Pers Individ Dif.


Ability to self-regulate varies and self-regulatory strength is a limited source that can be depleted or fatigued. Research on the impact of individual differences on self-regulatory capacity is still scarce, and this study aimed to examine whether personality factors such as dispositional optimism, conscientiousness, and self-consciousness can impact or buffer self-regulatory fatigue. Participants were patients diagnosed with chronic multi-symptom illnesses (N = 50), or pain free matched controls (N = 50), randomly assigned to either a high or low self-regulation task, followed by a persistence task. Higher optimism predicted longer persistence (p = .04), and there was a trend towards the same effect for conscientiousness (p = .08). The optimism by self-regulation interaction was significant (p = .01), but rather than persisting despite self-regulatory effort, optimists persisted longer only when not experiencing self-regulatory fatigue. The effects of optimism were stronger for controls than patients. There was also a trend towards a similar conscientiousness by self-regulation interaction (p = .06). These results suggest that the well-established positive impact of optimism and conscientiousness on engagement and persistence may be diminished or reversed in the presence of self-regulatory effort or fatigue, adding an important new chapter to the self-regulation, personality, and pain literature.

Keywords: Conscientiousness; Dispositional optimism; Self-regulation; Self-regulatory fatigue; Selfconsciousness.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Impact of optimism by self-regulation on persistence.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Optimism by illness by self-regulation interaction.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Impact of conscientiousness by self-regulation on persistence.

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