Baumeister: Suppressing stereotypes depletes willpower

Increasing self-regulatory strength can reduce the depleting effect of suppressing stereotypes

Gailliot MT, Plant EA, Butz DA, Baumeister RF.
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1270, USA. [email protected]

Three longitudinal studies and one correlational study tested the hypothesis that increasing self-regulatory strength by regular self-regulatory exercise would reduce the intrapsychic costs of suppressing stereotypes. Participants tried to resist using stereotypes while describing or talking to a stimulus person. Participants whose habitual motivation to suppress stereotypes was low exhibited impaired Stroop and anagram performance after the suppression task, presumably because of self-regulatory depletion (i.e., a reduction of self-regulatory strength following prior use). Two weeks of self-regulation exercises (such as using one’s nondominant hand or refraining from cursing) eliminated this effect. These findings indicate that self-regulatory exercise can improve resistance to self-regulatory depletion and, consequently, people can suppress stereotypes without suffering subsequent decrements in task performance.


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