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Ego Depletion Study

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Ego Depletion, Guilt and Prosocial Behavior The Ohio State University and University of Grenoble researchers Xu, Begue and Bushman (2012) conducted a study that investigated how ego depletion affects people's feelings of guilt and their prosocial behaviors. Ego depletion refers to the idea that human self-control is a limited resource that can be drained with use (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998). The approach proposed that the performance on subsequent self-control could be impaired if the energy has been used up on the initial self-control task. Previous experiments have demonstrated that ego depletion decreases prosocial behaviors (DeWall, Baumeister, Gailliot, & Maner, 2008), but none of them has ever tested…show more content…
Participants were shown 10 visually illusive pictures, and they were told to determine whether a picture contained certain faces. It was an impossible task since each picture was displayed for only 5 seconds, so participants had to guess. They were told that every error they made would cause the next participant receiving a 5-second blast of unpleasant noise. Every participant received 5 noises, but they were told that the next participant would receive 9 noises as they made more errors than the one before them. The procedure could successfully induce a feeling of guilt. After the guilt-inducing procedure, participants needed to complete a self-reported measure of guilt (explicit guilt) and an Implicit Association Test (IAT) that was used to measure the reaction time for categorizing concepts of "I" vs. "others" and "guilty" vs. "innocent" (implicit…show more content…
It demonstrated that increase of ego depletion leads to a decrease of the feeling of guilt, and consequently affect one's prosocial behaviors. Given this, it can be assumed that a person would behave less morally if he/she is going through a hard time which requires a high level of willpower. Although the results supported the hypothesis, the article pointed out two limitations. Firstly, there was no non-guilt condition designed for the experiment. Secondly, the feeling of guilt in this study was not induced by the participants' awareness of doing something wrong but a recognition of a better situation they were. Besides, the study used deception (participants were told the experiment was about learning and memory but not a social psychology study) which is not encouraged to be used in experimental studies. The findings from this article may be merely applied to western culture since the participants in the study were all selected from one country (France) and one cultural background. People from different cultural backgrounds may not share the same moral standards and perceptions for one situation. This cultural difference could lead a person to be apathetic just because of his/her perceptions and personality but without ego depletion
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