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Another blow for ego-depletion theory – practice counteracts the effects of diminished willpower

29 January 2018

Ego depletion is the notion that willpower is a fuel that gets burned away by effort, and once it burns low we lose our focus and bow to our immediate desires.

However, this once dominant theory has recently come into question, thanks in part to a large-scale replication that failed to find an ego-depletion effect and a meta-analysis that argued that the size of the effect is minimal.

Complicating the picture, other recent findings have provided a strong demonstration of the effect. But now researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz have released a pre-print at PsyArxiv in which they suggest the debates over the size of the ego-depletion effect are missing the point because when you look over the long-term, ego depletion becomes meaningless.

The team, led by Mario Wenzel, built experiments around the classic ego-depletion design: some participants performed an initial mentally demanding task designed to make them ego-depleted whereas others acted as controls and performed a low-effort version.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.


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