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Temptation enactment and the experience of self-control in daily life

Wilcox, Miriam Emily (2013) Temptation enactment and the experience of self-control in daily life. University of Buckingham.

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Abstract

This study employed mixed methods to investigate whether individuals’ self-control varied across domains of temptation, while maintaining a link with trait self-control. The study sought to replicate previous laboratory and experience-sampling findings of ego depletion, whereby multiple, contiguous self-control tasks result in reduced self-control performance. One hundred and eleven participants took part in an online questionnaire. Significant differences were found within participants’ mean temptation enactment scores across domains relating to food, work, money, drugs, exercise and social temptations, and yet there was an overall pattern whereby temptation enactment scores for domains correlated with one another and with trait self-control. This provides support for the existence of a trait level of self-control that allows for intraindividual variance in self-control. It was hypothesised that a between-participants difference in temptation enactment scores would emerge on the basis of the number of domains where participants reported actively attempting self-control, but this hypothesis was not supported. Therefore, no quantitative evidence for the phenomenon of ego depletion was found. Qualitative measures were used to explore participants’ experience of self-control in the domains. Emergent themes provided tentative support for the existence of ego depletion in daily life and for two models proposed to explain it.

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