Date of Conferral







Tom Diebold


Previous research has shown that exerting self-control on a demanding task can impair performance on a subsequent demanding self-control task. This phenomenon is known as ego-depletion; however, its underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Notable gaps in the literature exist regarding whether participants’ motivation levels can attenuate the depletion effect, and whether trait self-control is related. Drawing from the process model of depletion and the self-determination theory, the goal of the study was to examine whether motivational incentives in the form of autonomy can impact performance on tasks in an ego-depleted state, and the potential relationship of trait self-control. Amazon Mechanical Turk was utilized to conduct this experimental quantitative study with a 2 (ego-depletion: yes or no) x 2 (autonomous reward motivation: incentivized or nonincentivized) between-subjects factorial design. The effects of an autonomous motivational incentive were compared with the effects of no incentive on a convenience sample of online participants (N = 211), half of whom performed a task designed to be depleting of self-control resources, and half of whom performed a non-depleting task instead. Multivariate ANCOVAs showed no significant differences for performance on a subsequent self-control task for any of the experimental groups, and no co-variance of trait self-control was found (as measured by the Brief Self-Control Scale). This study will contribute to social change by increasing understanding of the factors contributing to self-control. This knowledge will be useful to anyone intending to strengthen their own willpower and achieve their goals, and may enable practitioners to better assist clients struggling with addictions and other maladaptive behaviors.