Background: The process model proposes that the ego depletion effect is due to (a) an increase in motivation toward indulgence, and (b) a decrease in motivation to control behaviour following an initial act of self-control. In contrast, the reflective-impulsive model predicts that ego depletion results in behaviour that is more consistent with desires, and less consistent with motivations, rather than influencing the strength of desires and motivations. The current study sought to test these alternative accounts of the relationships between ego depletion, motivation, desire, and self-control. Methods: One hundred and fifty-six undergraduate women were randomised to complete a depleting e-crossing task or a non-depleting task, followed by a lab-based measure of snack intake, and self-report measures of motivation and desire strength. Results and Conclusions: In partial support of the process model, ego depletion was related to higher intake, but only indirectly via the influence of lowered motivation. Motivation was more strongly predictive of intake for those in the non-depletion condition, providing partial support for the reflective-impulsive model. Ego depletion did not affect desire, nor did depletion moderate the effect of desire on intake, indicating that desire may be an appropriate target for reducing unhealthy behaviour across situations where self-control resources vary.
- ego depletion
- food intake