Implicit Theories; Ego-depletion; Self-control; Strength model; Willpower
Bernecker Katharina, Job Veronika (2015), Beliefs About Willpower Are Related to Therapy Adherence and Psychological Adjustment in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes, in Basic and Applied Social Psychology
, 37, 188-195.
Bernecker Katharina, Job Veronika (2015), Beliefs about willpower moderate the effect of previous day demands on next day's expectations and effective goal striving, in Frontiers in Psychology
, 6, 1-10.
Job Veronika, Friese Malte, Bernecker Katharina (2015), Effects of practicing self-control on academic performance, in Motivation Science
, 1, 219-232.
Job Veronika, Bernecker Katharina, Miketta Stefanie, Friese Malte (2015), Implicit theories about willpower predict the activation of a rest goal following self-control exertion, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, 109, 694-706.
Job Veronika, Walton Gregory M., Bernecker Katharina, Dweck Carol Sorich (2013), Beliefs about willpower determine the impact of glucose on self-control, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
, 110(37), 14837-14842.
Bernecker Kathariina, Job Veronika, Implicit theories about willpower in resisting temptations and emotion control, in Journal of Psychology
Job Veronika, Walton Gregory M., Bernecker Katharina, Dweck Carol S., Implicit theories about willpower predict self-regulation and grades in everyday life., in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Bernecker Katharina, Herrmann Marcel, Brandstätter Veronika, Job Veronika, Implicit theories about willpower predict subjective well-being, in Journal of Personality
Numerous studies have demonstrated that people differ in the conceptions they have about themselves and others and that these conceptions have a considerable impact on a variety of aspects of individual functioning such as goal striving, achievement, self-esteem, or interpersonal relations (e.g., Dweck, 1999; Molden & Dweck, 2006). These lay conceptions (e.g., the belief that intelligence or personality are fixed vs. malleable) have been referred to as implicit theories. In an ongoing research project I am conducting at Stanford University in cooperation with Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton I am investigating implicit theories regarding a psychological phenomenon that was not previously investigated from this perspective. I postulated that people differ in the implicit theories they have about the availability of willpower. A very prominent and influential theory, the strength model of self-control (e.g., Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007), postulates that acts of self-control consume energy from a limited resource leaving less energy available for subsequent acts of self-control. This phenomenon, whereby the energy from a limited resource is used, is termed ego-depletion. In the ongoing research project we linked ego-depletion research with the implicit theory approach by showing that the way people think about acts of self-control (as consuming from a limited vs. as a nonlimited resource) affects their self-regulation ability and their personal goal striving (Job, Dweck, & Walton, under review). In other words, people showed ego-depletion after a demanding task only if they believed that strenuous tasks deplete resources, but not if they believed that demanding tasks are energizing. These studies form the headstone for the research project I describe in this proposal. Within three sub-projects I want to investigate mechanisms mediating the effects of implicit theories (Project A), replicate previous findings within different areas of self-control (Project B), and investigate implicit theories about willpower in an applied context (Project C). Project A is aiming at showing that when people think that their willpower is depleting through an initial act of self-control (limited resource theory) they implicitly pursue the goal of preserving and replenishing their resources after they experienced a task as exhausting. This activation of a “rest” goal makes them decrease in their effort and performance. I will test this hypothesis in a series of four laboratory experiments. Participants’ implicit theories about willpower will be manipulated and they will process two seemingly independent self-control tasks (the first one will contain a depletion manipulation). Additionally, the activation of a “rest” vs. “effort” goal will be measured, right after the depletion manipulation. In Study 1 participants will solve a sequential priming task on a computer which will measure the association of rest- and effort- stimuli with positive and negative valence. In Study 2 the approach vs. avoidance behavioral response towards rest- and effort- stimuli will be assessed with the joystick paradigm. In a next step Study 3 will investigate the evaluation of products and activities with rest or effort character. Finally, Study 4 will contain a direct behavioral measure giving participants the choice between a recreational or strenuous task. The aims of Project B will be to replicate and extend the previous findings about implicit theories moderating ego-depletion regarding different self-control tasks: Resistance to temptation (Study 5) and emotion suppression (Study 6). In a final longitudinal study (Study 7) I will test the effect of implicit theories about willpower over time. A sample of undergraduate students will be tracked over two months filling in a set of questionnaires every week. Besides implicit theories about willpower and self-regulatory behavior an individuated measure of self-regulatory demands (stress and demanding life circumstances) will be included in this study. With these data I will test the prediction that implicit theories interact with self-regulatory demands in predicting changes in self-regulatory behavior.Project C will investigate implicit theories about willpower in the context of diabetes since successful self-regulation is of high importance for the management of this disease. First, a longitudinal study (Study 8) will examine how implicit theories are related to diabetes specific self-regulation (keeping a diet, exercising, glucose testing, and medication taking) and health status. Finally, in Study 9 an intervention technique specifically for patients with diabetes will be developed and tested for its effects on successful self-control and health outcomes.Taken together, these studies will provide important insight into the understanding of implicit theories about willpower as a top-down process affecting self-regulation and into the possibility of employing these processes for the promotion of successful self-regulation.