Motivation, personal beliefs, and limited resources all contribute to self-control

Kathleen D. Vohs, Roy F. Baumeister, Brandon J. Schmeichel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


What effects do motivation and beliefs have on self-control? We tested this question using a limited resource paradigm, which generally has found that people show poor self-control after prior exertions of self-control. Recent findings have suggested that motivation and even belief in unlimited willpower can render persons immune to ego depletion. We replicated those findings, but also showed they are limited to cases of mild depletion. When depletion is extensive, the effects of motivation and subjective belief vanished and in one case reversed. After performing only one self-control task, the typical pattern of self-regulation impairment was ameliorated among people who were encouraged to regard willpower as unlimited (Experiment 1) or motivated by task importance (Experiment 2). Those manipulations failed to improve performance among severely depleted persons who had done multiple self-control tasks. These findings integrate ideas of limited resources, motivation, and beliefs in understanding the nature of self-control over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-947
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Ego depletion
  • Lay belief
  • Motivation
  • Self-control
  • Self-regulation

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