Effortful experiences of self-control foster lay theories that self-control is limited

Jane A. Klinger*, Abigail A. Scholer, Chin Ming Hui, Daniel C. Molden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Though recent motivational accounts of self-control highlight the importance of experiences of effort and fatigue for continued goal pursuit in the moment, less research has investigated potential longer-term effects of these experiences. In three studies, we tested the hypothesis that experiencing self-control as effortful and exhausting would lead to a general belief that the capacity for self-control is limited (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). When participants reflected on a high- versus a low-effort self-control experience (Study 1), engaged in a high- versus low-effort self-control task (Study 2) or experienced a two-week period of self-control practice as more versus less effortful (Study 3), they were more likely to endorse lay theories that self-control is limited. In turn, these limited lay theories led to impairments in self-control performance under high regulatory demand (Study 3). We discuss implications for understanding what limits self-control and the development of lay theories related to self-control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Effort
  • Exertion
  • Fatigue
  • Lay theories
  • Self-control
  • Willpower

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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