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Research Details

Positive Affect and Self-regulation


Four studies examine the influence of positive affect on the depletion effect, which is manifested by poorer performance on a self-regulatory persistence task when the initial task is highly depleting than when it is not. This depletion effect is eliminated when participants experience positive affect concurrent with the performance of the persistence task (Studies 1 and 2). In subsequent studies, inducing positive affect prior to the persistence task not only eliminates the depletion effect by enhancing performance in the high depletion condition, but also reduces persistence in the low depletion condition in comparison with an affectively neutral group (Studies 3-4), so that those in the low depletion condition exhibit less persistence than those in high depletion (Study 4). These findings suggest that the depletion effect is the result of a resource allocation decision rather than a resource limitation, as suggested in the literature. Those in neutral affect base their persistence on their fatigue that results from the resources expended on the initial task, whereas those in positive affect focus on an accessible and applicable standard to determine their subsequent persistence.


Working Paper


Brian Sternthal

Date Published



Sternthal, Brian. 2016. Positive Affect and Self-regulation.


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