Ego Depletion and the Limited Resource Model of Self-Control

Nicole L. Mead, Jessica L. Alquist, Roy F. Baumeister

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

17 Scopus citations


People break diets, procrastinate in the face of looming deadlines, imbibe too much alcohol the night before a midterm, struggle to save money, and lash out at loved ones and family members. They do all these things despite their best intentions not to. Why do people engage in such personally, interpersonally, and socially destructive behaviors? This chapter suggests that a major reason why people fail at self-control is because it relies on a limited resource. We define self-control as the capacity to alter one's responses; it is what enables people to forego the allure of short-term pleasures to institute responses that bring long-term rewards. One of the core functions of selfcontrol may be to facilitate culture, which often requires that people curtail selfishness for the sake of effective group functioning. The first part of the chapter gives an overview of how self-control operates, including the possible biological basis of self-control. It covers a substantial body of literature suggesting that self-control operates on a limited resource, which becomes depleted with use. The second part of the chapter reviews the benefits of good self-control and the costs of bad self-control across a large variety of domains, such as consumption, self-presentation, decision making, rejection, aggression, and interpersonal relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSelf Control in Society, Mind, and Brain
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199776894
ISBN (Print)9780195391381
StatePublished - May 1 2010


  • Ego depletion
  • Impulse
  • Motivation
  • Self-control
  • Willpower


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