Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower Is More Than a Metaphor

Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1270, USA.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 03/2007; 92(2):325-36. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.325
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The present work suggests that self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source. Laboratory tests of self-control (i.e., the Stroop task, thought suppression, emotion regulation, attention control) and of social behaviors (i.e., helping behavior, coping with thoughts of death, stifling prejudice during an interracial interaction) showed that (a) acts of self-control reduced blood glucose levels, (b) low levels of blood glucose after an initial self-control task predicted poor performance on a subsequent self-control task, and (c) initial acts of self-control impaired performance on subsequent self-control tasks, but consuming a glucose drink eliminated these impairments. Self-control requires a certain amount of glucose to operate unimpaired. A single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels, thereby impairing subsequent attempts at self-control.

Download full-text


Available from: Lauren Brewer, Apr 22, 2015
  • Source
    • "Additionally, consciously contemplating death depletes people's self-regulatory energy (Gailliot et al. 2006). As in previous research (Baumeister et al. 1998; Gailliot et al. 2007a; Vohs et al. 2014), we assessed the capacity to self-regulate with a task persistence measure. Specifically, we assessed how long participants persisted in solving a very difficult logic problem. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Existentialists have proposed that defining the self in terms of social groups—interdependent self-construal—helps maintain adaptive psychological functioning in the face of death awareness. Supporting this idea, research has demonstrated that when the awareness of death is experimentally heightened, individuals display greater investment in their social groups. No research, however, has directly tested the fundamental assertion that the awareness of death aversely effects psychological functioning for those without an interdependent self-construal. To provide an initial test of this claim, we examined the extent to which the awareness of death compromises the subjective sense of energy and aliveness (i.e., vitality) and self-regulatory energy at varying levels of interdependent self-construal. Specifically, in two experiments, we measured interdependent self-construal, experimentally heightened the awareness of death, and subsequently measured subjective vitality (Study 1) and self-regulation (Study 2). Results demonstrated that heightened death awareness reduced subjective vitality and self-regulation, but only for individuals with low, not high, levels of interdependent self-construal.
    Motivation and Emotion 08/2015; 39(4). DOI:10.1007/s11031-015-9475-0 · 1.55 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "x tasks requiring mental effort ( Fairclough & Houston , 2004 ). Furthermore , a series of nine studies suggested that self - regulatory tasks decreased blood glucose relative to non - self - regulatory tasks , and that replenishing glucose via a sugar ( vs . placebo ) drink resulted in improved performance on a subsequent self - regulatory task ( Gailliot et al . , 2007 ) . Several other studies found similar effects for the ability of oral glucose administration to prevent self - regulatory fatigue ( Dewall , Baumeister , Gailliot , & Maner , 2008 ; Gailliot et al . , 2009 ; Masicampo & Baumeister , 2008 ) , including one study exam - ining self - regulation in the form of persistence among dogs ( Mil"
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Self-regulation requires overriding a dominant response and leads to temporary self-regulatory fatigue. Existing theories of the nature and causes of self-regulatory fatigue highlight physiological substrates such as glucose, or psychological processes such as motivation, but these explanations are incomplete on their own. Historically, theories of physical fatigue demonstrate a similar pattern of useful but incomplete explanations, as recent views of physical fatigue emphasize the roles of both physiological and psychological factors. In addition to accounting for multiple inputs, these newer views also explain how fatigue can occur even in the presence of sufficient resources. Examining these newer theories of physical fatigue can serve as a foundation on which to build a more comprehensive understanding of self-regulatory fatigue that integrates possible neurobiological underpinnings of physical and self-regulatory fatigue, and suggests the possible function of self-regulatory fatigue. © 2015 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
    Personality and Social Psychology Review 07/2015; DOI:10.1177/1088868315597841 · 7.55 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "The benefits of combining positive experiences with negative ones are well documented (e.g., Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998; Fredrickson, Mancuso, Branigan, & Tugade, 2000). When people attempt to cope and self-regulate during stressful events, people consume available psychological resource that become depleted (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998; Glass, Singer, & Friedman, 1969; Linville & Fischer, 1991) and experience both psychological and physiological consequences (Baumeister, Gailliot, DeWall, & Oaten, 2006; Gailliot et al., 2007). Positive emotions seem to directly undo the impact of negative emotions and replenish the depleted psychological resources. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A previous study on the relationship between subjective well-being (SWB) and hedonic editing-the process of mentally integrating or segregating different events during decision-making-showed that happy individuals preferred the social-buffering strategy more than less happy individuals. The present study examined the relationship between SWB, social-buffering and hedonic outcomes in daily life. In Study 1, we used web-based diaries to measure the frequency with which individuals utilised social and non-social buffers as well as daily levels of happiness. Consistent with the previous finding, happy individuals utilised social buffers more frequently than less happy individuals. Interestingly, the utilisation of social buffers had a positive effect on daily happiness among all participants, regardless of individuals' levels of SWB. In Study 2, we found that although the use of social buffers yielded similar effects across groups on online evaluations of events, happy individuals showed a positive bias in global evaluations of past events. This finding suggests that how one construes and remembers the outcomes of social buffering may shape the different hedonic editing preferences among happy and less happy individuals.
    Cognition and Emotion 07/2015; DOI:10.1080/02699931.2015.1048669 · 2.52 Impact Factor
Show more