The Sticky Anchor Hypothesis: Ego Depletion Increases Susceptibility to Situational Cues

Sachin Banker, Sarah E. Ainsworth, Roy F. Baumeister, Dan Ariely, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Self-control depletion has been linked both to increased selfish behavior and increased susceptibility to situational cues. The present research tested two competing hypotheses about the consequence of depletion by measuring how people allocate rewards between themselves and another person. Seven experiments analyzed behavior in standard dictator games and reverse dictator games, settings in which participants could take money from another person. Across all of these experiments, depleted participants made smaller changes to the initial allocation, thereby sticking closer to the default position (anchor) than non-depleted participants. These findings provide support for a “sticky anchor hypothesis,” which states that the effects of depletion on behavior are influenced by the proximal situational cues rather than by directly stimulating selfishness per se.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1040
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • depletion
  • dictator game
  • prosocial behavior
  • self-control
  • self-regulation
  • selfishness


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