Are autonomous self-control affordances less depleting? Investigating the moderating role of the autonomy motive
1Universität Zürich; 2Universität Bern
The athlete who mobilizes all her strength to run the last meters of a marathon to achieve her personal best, and the man who gets up one hour earlier to do his daily exercises to lose weight have one thing in common: they will use a certain amount of self-control to be successful. Self-control has been shown to be a highly adaptive and important skill to achieve long-term goals in different areas of personal and social life (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). An important framework within research on self-control is the strength model by Baumeister and colleagues (1994). Within this model, self-control is seen as a limited resource that can become temporarily depleted after having used self-control in prior tasks (i.e., ego depletion), which may impair subsequent performance. Although many studies adopted the model in the last decades to explain self-control lapses, the model has gotten under increased criticism due to recent failures to replicate the ego depletion effect (Carter & McCullough, 2014). A possible explanation for the difficulties to replicate the effect might be the presence of moderators. For example, researchers have demonstrated that autonomous self-control acts are less depleting than enforced self-control acts (Englert & Bertrams, 2015; Muraven, Rosman, & Gagné. 2007). Still research on moderators of the ego-depletion effect either adopt a differential or situational perspective, not considering an established postulate of motivational psychology that persons interact with the environment (Lewin, 1936). Aiming to contribute to this debate, the present work tested the assumption, that an individuals’ autonomy motive moderates the relationship between autonomy and momentarily available self-control strength. We tested our hypothesis in a between subjects design (autonomy vs. no-autonomy while working on an ego depletion task) in a sample of N = 107 university students in the laboratory. The results show that only people with a high autonomy disposition responded to the experimental manipulation. For them, the autonomous self-control acts were less depleting compared to the control condition. The results show that the ego-depletion effect is influenced by situational, as well as individual differences and thereby confirms an interactionist perspective. Moreover, important consequences for the sport context can be derived. It seems crucial to enforce autonomy in settings where self-control is needed. Moreover, if possible, individual differences in the need for autonomy should be considered, as not everyone might equally profit from autonomy (Schüler, Sheldon, Prentice, & Halusic, 2014; Sieber, Schüler, & Wegner, 2016).
Mindfulness and self-control strength in sports: Does a short mindfulness exercise compensate for the ego depletion effect?
In sport and exercise contexts, it is highly important to control one’s impulses and behavioural tendencies to meet specific goals. For example, athletes need to overcome fatigue and pain and must ignore external factors like noise from the audience to achieve high-level performance (Englert, 2016). Athletes frequently have to deal with several demands which may deplete their limited self-control resources which may in turn negatively affect their subsequent performance in a wide variety of sports-related tasks (e.g., coordinative, psychological and physical tasks; Birrer & Morgan, 2010). In our study, we investigated the effects of a short mindfulness exercise on physical performance in a state with temporarily depleted self-control strength (ego depletion; Baumeister, 2002). Mindfulness meditation may be beneficial for mechanisms involved during self-control exertion, because it supports efficient emotion regulation, attention regulation and executive functioning (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Jha, Krompinger, & Baime, 2007; Masicampo & Baumeister, 2007). We hypothesised that a short mindfulness exercise can compensate - at least partly - for the ego depletion effect procured by a strenuous cognitive task on physical performance. We applied a mixed between- (ego depletion: yes vs. no) within- (two times of measurement, 7 days apart; mindfulness: yes vs. no; order counterbalanced) subjects design to test our hypothesis in a sample of N = 34 sport students (18 women; Mage = 20.85, SDage = 1.31). Ego depletion was manipulated via a well-established transcription task. For the manipulation of mindfulness, participants in the mindfulness condition performed a short mindfulness exercise, while participants in the control condition listened to an audio book. As dependent variable, participants performed a strenuous physical exercise (plank exercise) for as long as possible and we measured the respective durations at both times of measurement. Depleted participants in the mindfulness condition were able to compensate for the ego depletion effect and held the plank position as long as the non-depleted group. On the contrary, ego depleted participants’ performance decreased when listening to the audio book. However, the interaction did not reach statistical significance, F(1, 28) = 2.28, p = .14, ηp2 = .08. The results, at least to some extent, support our hypothesis, indicating that a short mindfulness exercise can help to compensate for ego depletion related performance impairments in sport.
Self-control revisited: The case for a motivational neurovisceral perspective on self-control
1Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln; 2Universität Bern
Evolutionarily, self-control may be the most important characteristic that enabled humans to survive when confronted with danger and flourish in the face of challenges—in other words, to adapt to a constantly changing environment. It is no surprise, given its crucial role in adaptation, that willpower, as self-control is often colloquially known, is an important antecedent for a successful life (e.g., establishing a studying routines, stopping smoking, losing weight, and working out on a regular basis). A careful look at the self-control research revealed a “tale of two literatures”, that self-control has being investigated from different perspectives which have been barely connected to each other so far. Consequently, the aim of this overview was to establish the basis of a motivational neurovisceral perspective on self-control. We combined two main approaches to the study of self-control that have been developed independently in different fields: a motivational account coming from cognitive and social psychology, based on the process model (Inzlicht, Schmeichel, & Macrae, 2014), the opportunity cost model (Kurzban, Duckworth, Kable, & Myers, 2013), the integrative theory of self-control (Kotabe & Hofmann, 2015), and the strength model of self-control (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007); and a neurovisceral account coming from neurophysiology, based on the neurovisceral integration model (Thayer, Hansen, Saus-Rose, & Johnsen, 2009). The new perspective will make it possible to integrate and extend the motivational and neurovisceral accounts, develop new research questions and hypotheses, and set the stage for integrated interventions aimed at enhancing self-control and preventing its failure in sport and exercise settings.
Lapses in self-control: A consequence of depleted self-control strength or the result of attentional and motivational shifts?
1Universität Bern; 2Universität Konstanz
Research in the field of sport and exercise psychology has repeatedly highlighted the importance of self-control strength for successful performance. For instance, higher levels of self-control strength are associated with performance under pressure (e.g., Englert & Bertrams, 2012), persistence in straining physical exercises (e.g., Wagstaff, 2014), or the ability to regularly follow physical exercise routines (e.g., Martin Ginis & Bray, 2010). Self-control can be defined as the ability to volitionally override dominant response tendencies and to bring them in line with individual goals, aims, or norms (e.g., Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). A large number of studies have shown that individuals who performed a primary self-control act performed worse in a secondary self-control task compared to participants who had not exerted self-control in a respective primary task (Hagger, Wood, Stiff, & Chatzisarantis, 2010). Traditionally, these performance impairments in secondary self-control acts have been explained by adopting the strength model of self-control (e.g., Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998), which proposes that all acts of self-control are energized by one global metaphorical resource of limited capacity. After having performed a self-control act, an individual’s self-control strength may become temporarily depleted and may not be immediately replenished (Baumeister et al., 1998). In this state of ego depletion, subsequent self-control acts are executed less efficiently compared to when self-control strength is fully available. However, recently, the strength model of self-control has been challenged on empirical and on theoretical grounds. For instance, a registered replication attempt conducted in 23 different laboratories failed to find any evidence of the ego depletion effect (Hagger et al., 2016). Aside of highlighting the importance of such replication attempts, this raises the question of how lapses in self-control can be explained and which variables determine whether primary self-control acts have a negative carry-over effect on secondary self-control performance. Recently, an alternative theoretical model explaining self-control impairments after primary self-control acts has been proposed by Inzlicht and Schmeichel (2012; 2013). Based upon the premise that the exertion of self-control is inherently aversive, their process model of self-control postulates that impaired self-control performance may not be the consequence of depleted self-control resources but rather the consequence of motivational, attentional, and emotional shifts following the primary self-control act. The goal of this talk is going to be to discuss recent developments in self-control research and how these new developments may affect research on self-control in the field of sport and exercise psychology.