May 19, 2014

When ego-depletion will not happen

Work can sometimes be quite demanding in the sense that is requires a great deal of will power and self-control. It is not surprising that, while doing this type of work, you can get very tired and start to feel unable to show self-control and will power. Roy Baumeister and his colleagues (1998) explained this through the concept of ego-depletion. They argued that self-control and will power tax a limited amount of mental resources. When this energy gets depleted your ability to control yourself and to show will power diminishes. This not only leads to the situation that you will less able to control yourself to do the task at hand but also to you being less able to resist temptations such as an unhealthy snack. Several scholars have described ways to limit or counteract the effects of ego-depleting. Examples are: positive affect, rest and sleep, practice of self-regulation, using implementation intentions, and visualizing an energizing significant other. It has also been suggests (although research findings aren't unequivocal on this) that taking in sugar can temporarily undo the effects of ego-depletion.

The ego-depletion model, however, appears to be too simple.

1. The effect of mindset: mindset is about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is the belief that certain mental entities cannot be developed; a growth mindset is the belief that they can. Much research has shown that having a fixed mindset has many disadvantages and having a growth mindset has many advantages. Baumeister's concept of ego-depletion reminds of the fixed mindset in that it suggests that there is a fixed and limited amount of energy available for self-control and will power. A longitudinal study by Job et al show that what you believe about self-control and will power affects the amount of self-control and will power you are able to exert. Their study showed that believing in the ego-depletion effect causes it to happen sooner. People who believed that will power is an abundant resource could control themselves longer, even under very demanding circumstances.

2. The effect of autonomy: research by Moller et al (2006) shows that ego-depletion does not happen for all activities. Self Determination Theory distinguishes between autonomous motivation and controlled motivation. Autonomous motivation means doing something because you find it interesting and/or you fully endorse doing it because it is concordant with your values. Controlled motivation means doing something because you feel pressured, forced or seduced to do it. Moller et al. showed that ego-depletion did happen when there was controlled motivation but not when there was autonomous motivation. When you find interesting what you do and/or it is congruent with your values, your ability to control yourself will not suffer, even under demanding circumstances.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner