Is self-regulation depletion graded?
Arbuthnott, Katherine D.
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When we conceal our emotions, it is more difficult for us to subsequently perform other tasks that also require self-control (John & Gross, 2004). It has thus been hypothesized that self-regulation requires a depletable resource (Schmeichel & Baumeister, 2004). The present study examined whether this depletion is graded, increasing with greater time exercising self-control. Participants watched one or two emotionally evocative films, and half were asked to hide their emotions while watching the film(s). Their faces were recorded, and coding indicates that participants followed these instructions, as those in the suppression group were both less expressive and reported more difficulty with the task than those in the normal expression group. After participants were finished watching the film(s) they completed verbal and nonverbal fluency tasks which were previously found to detect self-regulation depletion (Schmeichel, Demaree, Robinson & Pu, 2006). However, in this study, fluency performance did not differ as a function of emotion expression. This finding suggests that self-regulation depletion does not occur under all conditions, either because expression control was not sufficiently effortful in this study, or that different types of self-control (i.e., emotional and cognitive) do not require the same resource. We hypothesized that the depletion of self-regulation occurs in a graded fashion. Upon investigation, this hypothesis was not supported, but suggests that there may be different ressources for emotional and cognitive self-regulation.