Reverse ego-depletion: Acts of self-control can improve subsequent performance in Indian cultural contexts

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2017 Oct;113(4):589-607. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000099. Epub 2017 Jun 5.


The strength model of self-control has been predominantly tested with people from Western cultures. The present research asks whether the phenomenon of ego-depletion generalizes to a culture emphasizing the virtues of exerting mental self-control in everyday life. A pilot study found that whereas Americans tended to believe that exerting willpower on mental tasks is depleting, Indians tended to believe that exerting willpower is energizing. Using dual task ego-depletion paradigms, Studies 1a, 1b, and 1c found reverse ego-depletion among Indian participants, such that participants exhibited better mental self-control on a subsequent task after initially working on strenuous rather than nonstrenuous cognitive tasks. Studies 2 and 3 found that Westerners exhibited the ego-depletion effect whereas Indians exhibited the reverse ego-depletion effect on the same set of tasks. Study 4 documented the causal effect of lay beliefs about whether exerting willpower is depleting versus energizing on reverse ego-depletion with both Indian and Western participants. Together, these studies reveal the underlying basis of the ego-depletion phenomenon in culturally shaped lay theories about willpower. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Ego*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self-Control / psychology*
  • Stroop Test
  • Switzerland
  • United States
  • Young Adult