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J Soc Psychol. 2012 Sep-Oct;152(5):623-38.

Ego depletion increases risk-taking.

Author information

1
University of Regensburg, Department of Psychology, Universitätsstr 31, Regensburg 93053, Germany. peter.fischer@psychologie.uni-regensburg.de

Abstract

We investigated how the availability of self-control resources affects risk-taking inclinations and behaviors. We proposed that risk-taking often occurs from suboptimal decision processes and heuristic information processing (e.g., when a smoker suppresses or neglects information about the health risks of smoking). Research revealed that depleted self-regulation resources are associated with reduced intellectual performance and reduced abilities to regulate spontaneous and automatic responses (e.g., control aggressive responses in the face of frustration). The present studies transferred these ideas to the area of risk-taking. We propose that risk-taking is increased when individuals find themselves in a state of reduced cognitive self-control resources (ego-depletion). Four studies supported these ideas. In Study 1, ego-depleted participants reported higher levels of sensation seeking than non-depleted participants. In Study 2, ego-depleted participants showed higher levels of risk-tolerance in critical road traffic situations than non-depleted participants. In Study 3, we ruled out two alternative explanations for these results: neither cognitive load nor feelings of anger mediated the effect of ego-depletion on risk-taking. Finally, Study 4 clarified the underlying psychological process: ego-depleted participants feel more cognitively exhausted than non-depleted participants and thus are more willing to take risks. Discussion focuses on the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

PMID:
22931000
DOI:
10.1080/00224545.2012.683894
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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