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Social and Personality Psychology Compass 1/1 (2007): 115–128, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00001.x Self-Regulation, Ego Depletion, and Motivation

By Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs


Motivation is underappreciated in self-regulation theories (as is true in social personality psychology at large). This paper reviews the role of motivation in the context of the strength, or limited-resource, model of self-control in several domains. Sacrificing one desire in order to pursue another is more difficult when the incipient response is strongly motivated, a notion that highlights the struggle between urges and restraints. A reduction in ego resources can be temporarily overcome by strong motivation – nevertheless, ego depletion is not solely a loss of motivation: Recent experiments indicate that regulatory resources are rooted in physical energy stores. Motivational conflicts, especially the clash between selfish motives and behaviors that promote social acceptance, set the stage for the necessity of self-regulation and the circumstances in which ego depletion is most likely. Self-regulation is the self ’s capacity for altering its behaviors. It greatly increases the flexibility and adaptability of human behavior, enabling people to adjust their actions to a remarkably broad range of social and situational demands. It is an important basis for the popular conception of free will and for socially desirable behavior. It provides benefits to the individual and to society, and indeed good self-control seems to contribute to a great many desirable outcomes, including task performance, school and work success, popularity, mental health and adjustment, and good interpersonal relationship

Year: 2011
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