The role of ego depletion in goal pursuit: A construal-level perspective
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We conducted 2 experiments to explore whether or not ego depletion from exerting prior self-control lowers an individual’s construal level and thus, in turn, affects the individual’s goal preference. Experiment 1 (N = 132) involved a 2 (ego depletion: present vs. absent) × 2 (priming-focus feature: temporality vs. probability) between-subject design. The results showed that people whose ego was depleted from exerting prior self-control would be more motivated to pursue a temporally proximal uncertain goal than were those whose ego was not depleted. In Experiment 2 (N = 138) we used a 2 (ego depletion: present vs. absent) × 2 (social distance of the goal being pursued: for self vs. for others) between-subject design to test the generalizability of the finding in Experiment 1. The results showed that people whose ego was depleted would be motivated to pursue a goal that was certain with a lower end value, especially when setting a goal for others. Our finding that ego depletion lowered individuals’ construal level and, thus, made them focus more on subordinate features of a goal supports both self-control theory and construal-level theory.