Strength Model of Self-Regulation as Limited Resource: Assessment, Controversies, Update


The strength model of self-regulation holds that self-regulation operates by consuming a limited energy resource, thereby producing a state called ego depletion in which volition is curtailed because of low energy. We present our research program on ego depletion as well as much relevant work contributed by others. Challenges to the theory have emphasized allocation rather than depletion of resources, research participant expectations and obligations, changes in motivation and attention, beliefs and implicit theories, perceptions about depletion and vicarious depletion, glucose anomalies, and feelings of autonomy. We conclude that the theory needs revision and updating to accommodate the new findings, and we indicate the requisite changes. Furthermore, we conclude that the strength model is much better able than the rival accounts to explain all available evidence. Most of the rival accounts are compatible with it and indeed work best by sustaining the assumption that self-regulation relies on a limited resource. Self-regulation, as the ability to alter one’s responses based on rules, goals, ideals, norms, plans, and other standards, has greatly expanded the diversity of human adaptive behavior. It is highly conducive to the biological success of humankind, insofar as the species’s remarkable reproductive success and population increase have beenmediated by creating cultural societies, which depend on self-regulation. Abundant evidence has linked good self-control to scholastic and occupational success, stable and satisfying close relationships, good mental and physical health, avoidance of crime and violence, good adjustment, overcoming prejudice, healthy lifestyles, resistance to addiction, positive emotional outcomes, and longevity (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994; Daly, Baumeister, Delaney, & MacLachlan, 2014; Deary, Weiss, & Batty, 2010; Finkel, DeWall, Slotter, Oaten, & Foshee, 2009; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Mischel, Shoda, & Peake, 1988; Moffitt et al., 2011; Muraven, 2008, 2010; Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). Self-regulation has thus done wonders for humankind, individually and collectively. Yet this positive picture is darkened by a broad sense that people lack sufficient self-control and often fail in their efforts to regulate themselves. In large international surveys of personal strengths and weaknesses, people are less prone to name self-control than any other virtue as a personal strength—and more likely to cite poor self-control as a personal weakness (Baumeister & Tierney, 2011). Many social and personal problems have selfregulatory deficiencies as a central aspect. For example, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) proposed that low self-control is the single most important 68 R.F. Baumeister and K.D. Vohs

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@inproceedings{Baumeister2016StrengthMO, title={Strength Model of Self-Regulation as Limited Resource: Assessment, Controversies, Update}, author={Roy F . Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs}, year={2016} }