Strength in cognitive self-regulation

Ayla Barutchu, Olivia Carter, Robert Hester, Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Failures in self-regulation are predictive of adverse cognitive, academic and vocational outcomes, yet the interplay between cognition and self-regulation failure remains elusive. Two experiments tested the hypothesis that lapses in self-regulation, as predicted by the strength model, can be induced in individuals using cognitive paradigms and whether such failures are related to cognitive performance. In Experiments 1, the stop-signal task (SST) was used to show reduced behavioral inhibition after performance of a cognitively demanding arithmetic task, but only in people with low arithmetic accuracy, when compared with SST performance following a simple discrimination task. Surprisingly, and inconsistently with existing models, subjects rapidly recovered without rest or glucose. In Experiment 2, depletions of both go-signal reaction times and response inhibition were observed when a simple detection task was used as a control.These experiments provide new evidence that cognitive self-regulation processes are influenced by cognitive performance, and subject to improvement and recovery without rest.

Original languageEnglish
Article number174
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2013. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • self-control
  • depletion
  • response inhibition
  • arithmetic task
  • self-regulation
  • task switching

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