The influence of state and trait energy on self-regulatory behaviour
Holmqvist, Maxine Elisabeth
Self-regulation is a highly adaptive process that enables goal-directed behaviour; however, individuals often fail to self-regulate successfully. Failures of self-regulation in the domain of health may be particularly harmful especially for those with chronic diseases. The Energy Model articulated by Baumeister and colleagues proposes that all acts of self-regulation rely on a single, finite energy resource. Thus, one possible explanation for self-regulation failure is insufficient energy. In the current research, four studies examine the relationship between the construct of energy, which can manifest in state or trait form, and self-regulatory success. Past research has demonstrated that individuals who perform two sequential tasks requiring self-regulation perform worse on the second task (the self-regulatory fatigue effect). The Energy Model proposes that this performance decrement can be explained by energy depletion. If this is true, then state energy should mediate the self-regulatory fatigue effect. A series of three experimental studies (studies 1-3) were designed to test this hypothesis. In Study 1, participants were randomly assigned to a gaze regulation task or to a no-regulation control group (as in Schmeichel et. al, 2003) before they watched a brief video clip. Following this first task, all participants worked on a second self-regulatory task (solving anagrams). Persistence and performance on this second task were the dependent measures and energy was measured before and after the initial video task. Contrary to the predictions of the Energy Model, the self-regulatory fatigue effect was not replicated in this study and so the mediating potential of energy could not be tested. However, ratings of task difficulty and effort suggested that individuals in the gaze regulation condition did not find this task to be very challenging. Accordingly, a second study was designed that added an additional level of self-regulatory demand by asking participants to rehearse a 7-digit number during the video clip (memory regulation). When this was crossed with the gaze regulation manipulation, four conditions were created: no regulation, gaze regulation only, memory regulation only and memory + gaze regulation. Study 2 then followed the same approximate procedure as Study 1, with individuals randomly assigned to one of the four conditions. The results of this study were consistent with Study 1 in that the self-regulatory fatigue effect was not replicated. However, the manipulation check suggested that some of the participants in the gaze regulation conditions may not have adhered to experimental instructions and the conditions may have differed in the degree to which they were enjoyable and interesting to participants. Accordingly, a third study used an eye-tracker to assess self-regulation during the video task and evaluated aspects of task engagement. Study 3 followed the same procedures as Study 2. Eye-tracker data verified significant differences between the groups in terms of self-regulation during the initial video task; however, there were no other significant between group differences. Taken together, these 3 studies indicate that the self-regulatory fatigue effect may be less robust than previous research would suggest. An unexpected finding was the high degree of variability in the energy measures, which implied that individual differences in energy may be important to consider. Accordingly, Study 4 prospectively examined the role of dispositional energy in the self-regulation of diet and exercise behaviour by testing whether energy moderated intention-behaviour concordance in a sample of individuals newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This study demonstrated that energy predicted future exercise behaviour in this sample and provided some preliminary support for the hypothesis that individuals with higher levels of dispositional energy may show more intention-behaviour concordance than those with lower levels of dispositional energy. Overall, these 4 studies provide some tentative support for the role of dispositional energy in the implementation of health behaviour, but do not support the Energy Model’s predictions regarding self-regulatory fatigue.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorHall, Peter A.
CommitteeHadjistavropoulos, Heather; Elias, Lorin J.; Chad, Karen; Lawson, Karen L.