Baumeister and Tice introduced the concept that willpower is a finite resource that can be exhausted when used because it requires mental energy. The original experiments involved a willpower depleting task that requires self-control (e.g. don’t eat that cookie) followed by a task that requires a lot of mental effort (e.g. a quiz). They found that participants performed better when they were not first given the willpower depleting task.
- Ego depletion theory has been debunked—failed to reproduce in large scale experiments and meta analysis found flaws in the interpretation of findings.
- Operant conditioning as a possible alternative explanation where the priority of a reward changes based on other motivations
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It takes effort to make decisions and when confronted with numerous decisions to make, people get fatigued. These aren’t just big decisions (what should I do with my life?), but also small ones (what should I wear? what should I eat for dinner). This impairs a person’s ability to make further decisions (or avoid them).