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.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part by a grant to Todd Heatherton from the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences at Dartmouth College. We thank Jennifer L. Preston and Michael Stern for their assistance with this project. We also thank Jay Hull and Bob Kleck for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.
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