Ya Gotta Wanna: Shifting Motivational Priorities in the Self-Control Process
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Self-control has been linked to a range of important academic, social, and achievement-related outcomes (Tangney et al., 2004). However, there are a variety of differing perspectives on the process by which individuals exert self-control. Thus, the self-control process is still ambiguous and there is no single model that researchers have yet to agree upon. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine this self-control process in more detail, drawing from the shifting priorities self-control process model (Inzlicht, Schmeichel, & Macrae, 2014). More specifically, the study examined the distinct influence of regulatory-related constructs, specifically delay of gratification and future time perspective, on the motivational shifts that take place over time in the self-control process. In addition, motivational shifts during a self-control task were evaluated to determine relationships with important work-related outcomes. In particular, this study focused on the impact of self-control exertion on work ethic behavior (i.e., time spent exerting effort on a task) and associated task performance. These issues were investigated through a study involving a simulation program where participants were expected to work on an effortful task for an extended period of time, while being probed on their current goal priorities throughout task completion. The results provided empirical support for the shifting priorities proposition, suggesting that there are underlying within-person motivational shifts that occur during the self-control exertion process. Specifically, the findings show that have-to motivation levels on-task significantly decreased over time, while want-to motivation levels off-task significantly increased over time. Although the regulatory traits were not significant individual predictors of motivation slopes, there was an interesting interaction effect, such that the combination of high future time perspective and high delay of gratification was associated with decreasing want-to off-task motivation levels during the self-control exertion period. Additionally, there was no support for the relationship between motivational slopes and time spent working on the task. However, results did show that spending more time on labor was related to better task performance. Overall, these results help to clarify ambiguous findings in this research area by identifying key motivational processes that can influence self-control failure following extended effort exertion. The present study may have several key implications for researchers looking for alternative non-resource dependent explanations for ego depletion effects.