Study: Is Ego Depletion Real? An Analysis of Arguments (Review)

Study: Is Ego Depletion Real? An Analysis of Arguments (Review)

Keywords: ego depletion, self-control, self-regulation, replicability crisis, p-hacking

Author(s): Malte Friese, David Loschelder, Karolin Gieseler, Julius Frankenbach, & Michael Inzlicht

Date: 2018

Abstract

An influential line of research suggests that initial bouts of self-control increase the susceptibility to self-control failure (ego depletion effect). Despite seemingly abundant evidence, some researchers have suggested that evidence for ego depletion was the sole result of publication bias and p-hacking, with the true effect being indistinguishable from zero. Here, we examine (a) whether the evidence brought forward against ego depletion will convince a proponent that ego depletion does not exist and (b) whether arguments that could be brought forward in defense of ego depletion will convince a skeptic that ego depletion does exist. We conclude that despite several hundred published studies, the available evidence is inconclusive. Both additional empirical and theoretical works are needed to make a compelling case for either side of the debate. We discuss necessary steps for future work toward this aim.

Conclusion

Whether or not ego depletion is real is subject to great debate. Our analysis suggests that the critical evidence is unlikely to convince proponents that ego depletion does not exist. Likewise, the supporting evidence is unlikely to convince skeptics that ego depletion does exist. Better empiricism and better theory are needed to move the field forward and find more conclusive answers to the question whether, when, and why ego depletion does (not) exist.