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The Influence of Self-Regulation on Decision Making

Alexander Unger () and Dagmar Stahlberg ()
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Alexander Unger: University of Applied Sciences Ludwigshafen, Postal: Ernst-Boehe Str. 4, 67059 Ludwigshafen
Dagmar Stahlberg: Lehrstuhl fuer Sozialpsychologie, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Postal: Seminargebaeude A5, D-68131 Mannheim

No 08-35, Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications from Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim

Abstract: Ego depletion theory postulates the existence of a cognitive resource that is necessary to engage in self-regulation (e.g., the suppression of thought and emotions, the active initiation of behavior, the regulation of emotional states and decision making). If the resource is diminished by a task involving self-control, achievement in subsequent tasks will be impaired if these tasks also involve some kind of self-control. The current research analyses the influence of ego depletion on risk behavior, which can be seen as a special case of choice between alternative actions. Risky behavior is by definition the choice of an option that will result in an adverse outcome with a certain probability. It is assumed that people under ego depletion experience a lack of self-control to deal with these possibly negative outcomes and will therefore be prone to avoid risky alternatives. Alternatively, one could assume that ego depletion strengthens the existing individual disposition to risk-taking and/or weakens the rationality of decision making. Three experiments are reported that induced ego depletion (vs. a non-depleted control condition) and measured risk-taking in an investment scenario with actual pay-offs according to expected utilities. Results supported the first prediction of risk aversion under ego depletion independent of general risk disposition and rationality considerations.

Pages: 48 pages
Date: 2008-12-19
Note: Financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504, at the University of Mannheim, is gratefully acknowledged.
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