Publication bias and the limited strength model of self-control: has the evidence for ego depletion been overestimated?

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Few models of self-control have generated as much scientific interest as has the limited strength model. One of the entailments of this model, the depletion effect, is the expectation that acts of self-control will be less effective when they follow prior acts of self-control. Results from a previous meta-analysis concluded that the depletion effect is robust and medium in magnitude (d = 0.62). However, when we applied methods for estimating and correcting for small-study effects (such as publication bias) to the data from this previous meta-analysis effort, we found very strong signals of publication bias, along with an indication that the depletion effect is actually no different from zero. We conclude that until greater certainty about the size of the depletion effect can be established, circumspection about the existence of this phenomenon is warranted, and that rather than elaborating on the model, research efforts should focus on establishing whether the basic effect exists. We argue that the evidence for the depletion effect is a useful case study for illustrating the dangers of small-study effects as well as some of the possible tools for mitigating their influence in psychological science.

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Type of resources: Primary Source, Reading

Education level(s): College / Upper Division (Undergraduates)

Primary user(s): Student

Subject area(s): Applied Science, Social Science

Language(s): English