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Age Shall Not Weary Us: Deleterious Effects of Self-Regulation Depletion Are Specific to Younger Adults
DAHM, T., Neshat-Doost, H.T., GOLDEN, A.M., Horn, E., Hagger, M., DALGLEISH, T.
PloS one, 6(10)
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Self-regulation depletion (SRD), or ego-depletion, refers to decrements in self-regulation performance immediately following a different self-regulation-demanding activity. There are now over a hundred studies reporting SRD across a broad range of tasks and conditions. However, most studies have used young student samples. Because prefrontal brain regions thought to subserve self-regulation do not fully mature until 25 years of age, it is possible that SRD effects are confined to younger populations and are attenuated or disappear in older samples. We investigated this using the Stroop color task as an SRD induction and an autobiographical memory task as the outcome measure. We found that younger participants (<25 years) were susceptible to depletion effects, but found no support for such effects in an older group (40–65 years). This suggests that the widely-reported phenomenon of SRD has important developmental boundary conditions casting doubt on claims that it represents a general feature of human cognition.