Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Social/Personality Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 84 pages) : 2 color illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Mark Muraven

Committee Members

Anna Newheiser, Robert Rosellini


Self-control, Ego strength, Decision making

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


Research from the past fifteen years suggests that strong exertions of self-control in one instance cause self-control failure in subsequent instances. This phenomenon is called the “ego-depletion effect”. More recently, new theoretical and empirical advances in self-control research suggest a Two-Stage Model of self-control. During Stage One, individuals must identify the need to use self-control by recognizing a conflict between their current behavior and long-term goals, values, or social standards. In Stage Two, individuals must implement self-control strategies or willpower to bring current behavior in line with long-term goals, values, or social standards. To date, ego-depletion research has focused mostly on how strong exertions of self-control undermine subsequent attempts to implement self-control (Stage Two), but not on the effect of ego-depletion on self-control conflict identification (Stage One). This research sought to connect disparate findings in ego-depletion research to create and test a model of how ego-depletion could disrupt self-control conflict identification. Specifically, ego-depletion may cause low mental construal, which could decrease, the saliency of long-term goals, values, and social standards and thus interfere with one’s ability to identify conflicts between current behaviors and such long-term goals, values, or social standards. Two studies tested this model. In Study One, the probe-recognition task was used to determine if ego-depletion reduced the implicit activation of goals, values, and social standards in online participants. In Study Two, ego-depleted and non-depleted participants played an economic dilemma game known to involve self-control conflicts. While participants played the game, the computer monitored several behavioral indicators of self-control conflict awareness (e.g., decision-making time; behavioral variance; decision regret). These indicators were tested as partial mediators in the relationship between ego-depletion and actual choices made during the economic dilemma game. Also in Study Two, each participants' current state of mental construal was manipulated to test for interactions between construal level and ego-depletion on measures of conflict identification. Results from both studies generally failed to support the theory presented here. Potential reasons and implications for null results are discussed.