Self-control as limited resource: regulatory depletion patterns

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Mar;74(3):774-89. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.74.3.774.


If self-regulation conforms to an energy or strength model, then self-control should be impaired by prior exertion. In Study 1, trying to regulate one's emotional response to an upsetting movie was followed by a decrease in physical stamina. In Study 2, suppressing forbidden thoughts led to a subsequent tendency to give up quickly on unsolvable anagrams. In Study 3, suppressing thoughts impaired subsequent efforts to control the expression of amusement and enjoyment. In Study 4, autobiographical accounts of successful versus failed emotional control linked prior regulatory demands and fatigue to self-regulatory failure. A strength model of self-regulation fits the data better than activation, priming, skill, or constant capacity models of self-regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Frustration
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Mental Fatigue / psychology*
  • Motivation
  • Problem Solving
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Students / psychology
  • Thinking