Belief in Limited Willpower Is Self-fulfilling?
(see previous discussion of ego-depletion) It looks like people studying people’s decline in vigilance-required tasks over time need to take care not to suggest to their subjects the idea that they will probably fatigue. The theory is that tasks that specifically require “self control” can lead to specific fatigue in other “self control” tasks, as distinct from general mental fatigue, although it’s been found that glucose availability to the brain explains most of this. A new study, which is much more careful than past ones, gives a pretty strong idea that people’s expectations for how they’ll perform while willpower-taxed are the determining factor (at least for artifical, low-motivation psych-study tasks), and further that when these expectations are manipulated (by push polling), that this obliterates the effects typically reported in the ego-depletion literature. Because of the push polling affecting performance, you can’t just say that it’s ’ . I reproduce here my comments from this LessWrong discussion:
It seems reasonable to me that push polling about someone’s future behavior will lead them to act consistently with the signal they just sent in the poll - like in Cialdini’s Influence, where people are polled on whether they like to go to opera, or give charitably, by some attractive person they want to impress, and then after affirming are ambushed with a sales pitch (they thought it was an innocent poll but are trapped by their answers). So it seems reasonable to assume that those who were push-polled into believing they will become either sloppier, or more accurate, with fatigue, would act consonantly.