MHIQ/HPS Research Development Seminars - The Three 'Rs' and the Ego-Depletion Saga: Research, Replication, Readjustment

MHIQ/HPS Research Development Seminars - The Three 'Rs' and the Ego-Depletion Saga: Research, Replication, Readjustment

Principal speaker

Professor Martin S. Hagger

2022 Menzies Health Institute Queensland Seminar Series

Healthcare Practice and Survivorship - Research Development Seminars

Presenter: Martin S. Hagger, PhD Professor of Health Psychology, University of California, USA

Title: The Three 'Rs' and the Ego-Depletion Saga: Research, Replication, Readjustment

Seminar Overview -

One of the pre-dominant theoretical perspectives on self-control in recent years is Baumeister and colleagues' limited resource or 'strength' model. In this elegant and intuitively appealing model, self-control is conceptualized as a limited resource. Individuals were predicted to have good capacity to perform tasks and actions requiring self-control (e.g., resisting temptations, regulating thoughts and emotions, inhibiting dominant responses, suppressing impulses) for a period of time. However, once their self-control "resources' become depleted, their self-control capacity is impaired leading to self-control failure, a state referred to as "ego-depletion'. In this talk I introduce the ego-depletion effect and associated theoretical perspectives and mechanistic explanations. I then introduce a meta-analysis we conducted of published laboratory experiments testing the effect using the received approach to testing the effect. The analysis yielded a medium-sized ego depletion effect (d = 0.62) across studies with substantive variability and, although we also identified some candidate moderators, none resulted in a null ego-depletion effect, but merely diminished or magnified its size. However, a subsequent re-analysis and additional analysis of these studies conducted by Carter and McCullough applied stricter inclusion criteria, added unpublished data, and applied a series of statistical correction techniques to estimate the potential presence of 'small study' or publication bias. The analyses revealed that the ego-depletion effect size was much smaller than reported in our meta-analysis and, when applying the bias-correction techniques, was so small as to be trivial and not distinguishable from zero! In light of Carter et al.'s findings, my colleagues and I set out to conduct a good-faith replication of the ego-depletion effect across multiple laboratories. We recruited 23 labs who carried out an ego-depletion experiment using a standardized protocol approved by Baumeister and subjected their data to a meta-analysis testing the ego-depletion effect. The results indicated a trivial effect size for the ego-depletion effect that was not discernible from zero, consistent with Carter et al.'s analysis. The findings found resonance with researchers in psychology and the popular scientific media alike. Our replication inspired further replications of the ego-depletion effect including one led by Baumeister's colleagues, Vohs and Schmeichel, and all revealed trivial effect sizes or effect sizes that were no different from the null. In conclusion, I outline my experiences and direct involvement in this highly contentious series of events - and finding myself unexpectedly 'caught in the middle' of the ensuing debate. I outline how this helped me develop a much deeper understanding of the potential for bias in research and re-evaluate my hypotheses and expectations in response to the changing data landscape. The visceral first-hand experience with the ego-depletion research and replication led to an epiphany of sorts that needed to be confronted and provided important lessons that inspired changes in my research mindset going forward.

Presenter Biography -

Martin Hagger is Professor of Health Psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences at University of California, Merced, and Visiting Professor of Behaviour Change at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. At UC Merced, he is Chair of the Graduate Programs in Psychological Sciences and Director of the Social and Health Psychology Applied Behavioural Research for Prevention and Promotion (SHARPP) Lab. He is also Adjunct Professor at Griffith University and has been visiting Professor at the Universities of Rome, Bordeaux, and Genoble, and Hong Kong Baptist University. His research focuses on the psychology of health behaviour change. He is currently Senior co-Editor (Health Psychology) of Social Science and Medicine, former Editor-in-Chief of Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Stress and Health, and Health Psychology Review, and editorial board member of eleven other journals. He has received numerous awards including Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher Awards in 2021 and 2022, and the Distinguished Health Psychology Contribution Award from the International Association of Applied Psychology. He is a Fellow of the Society of Behavioural Medicine, European Health Psychology Society, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

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