Depletion makes the heart grow less helpful: Helping as a function of self-regulatory energy and genetic relatedness

C. Nathan DeWall, Roy F. Baumeister, Matthew T. Gailliot, Jon K. Maner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations

Abstract

Often people are faced with conflict between prosocial motivations for helping and selfish impulses that favor not helping. Three studies tested the hypothesis that self-regulation is useful for managing such motivational conflicts. In each study, depleted self-regulatory energy reduced willingness to help others. Participants who broke a habit, relative to participants who followed a habit, later reported reduced willingness to help in hypothetical scenarios (e.g., donating food or money; Studies 1 and 3). Controlling attention while watching a video, relative to watching it normally, reduced volunteering efforts to help a victim of a recent tragedyĝ€" but drinking a glucose drink undid this effect (Study 2). Depleted energy reduced helping toward strangers but it did not reduce helping toward family members (Study 3). Helping requires self-regulatory energy to manage conflict between selfish and prosocial motivationsĝ€"a metabolically expensive processĝ€"and thus depleted energy reduces helping and increased energy (glucose) increases helping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1653-1662
Number of pages10
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume34
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

Keywords

  • Glucose
  • Helping
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Self-control
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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