Are autonomous self-control affordances less depleting? Investigating the moderating role of the autonomy motive

Sieber, Vanda; Englert, Chris (26 May 2017). Are autonomous self-control affordances less depleting? Investigating the moderating role of the autonomy motive (Unpublished). In: 49. Jahrestagung der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Sportpsychologie (ASP) - "Gelingende Entwicklung im Lebenslauf". Bern. 25.05.-27.05.2017.

The athlete who mobilizes all her strength to run the last meters of a marathon to achieve her personal best, and the man who gets up one hour earlier to do his daily exercises to lose weight have one thing in common: they will use a certain amount of self-control to be successful. Self-control has been shown to be a highly adaptive and important skill to achieve long-term goals in different areas of personal and social life (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). An important framework within research on self-control is the strength model by Baumeister and colleagues (1994). Within this model, self-control is seen as a limited resource that can become temporarily depleted after having used self-control in prior tasks (i.e., ego depletion), which may impair subsequent performance. Although many studies adopted the model in the last decades to explain self-control lapses, the model has gotten under increased criticism due to recent failures to replicate the ego depletion effect (Carter & McCullough, 2014). A possible explanation for the difficulties to replicate the effect might be the presence of moderators. For example, researchers have demonstrated that autonomous self-control acts are less depleting than enforced self-control acts (Englert & Bertrams, 2015; Muraven, Rosman, & Gagné. 2007). Still research on moderators of the ego-depletion effect either adopt a differential or situational perspective, not considering an established postulate of motivational psychology that persons interact with the environment (Lewin, 1936). Aiming to contribute to this debate, the present work tested the assumption, that an individuals’ autonomy motive moderates the relationship between autonomy and momentarily available self-control strength. We tested our hypothesis in a between subjects design (autonomy vs. no-autonomy while working on an ego depletion task) in a sample of N= 107 university students in the laboratory. The results show that only people with a high autonomy disposition responded to the experimental manipulation. For them, the autonomous self-control acts were less depleting compared to the control condition. The results show that the ego-depletion effect is influenced by situational, as well as individual differences and thereby confirms an interactionist perspective. Moreover, important consequences for the sport context can be derived. It seems crucial to enforce autonomy in settings where self-control is needed. Moreover, if possible, individual differences in the need for autonomy should be considered, as not everyone might equally profit from autonomy (Schüler, Sheldon, Prentice, & Halusic, 2014; Sieber, Schüler, & Wegner, 2016).

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Education > Educational Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Sieber, Vanda, Englert, Christoph


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education




Christoph Englert

Date Deposited:

25 Apr 2018 09:24

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:11


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