Ego Depletion Induces Mental Passivity: Behavioral Effects Beyond Impulse Control

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Abstract

Three studies supported the hypothesis that people can become mentally and physically passive when resources are depleted by prior acts of self-control. Feeling depleted and recent self-regulatory exertion were associated with preferences for passive behaviors like resting and watching TV. Participants who had to maintain attention in the face of distractions preferred to avoid making consumer decisions as compared with participants who did not. Breaking a habit caused hungry participants to eat more peanuts when doing so was easy (the peanuts lacked shells) and to eat less when eating required minor preparatory action (the peanuts had shells). Mental passivity induced by depletion of self-control causes both passive behavior and impulsive behavior, depending on the situation.

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