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Political ideology and executive functioning: The effect of conservativism and liberalism on cognitive flexibility and working memory performance.

Buechner, B.M., Clarkson, J.J., Otto, A.S., Hirt, E.R., & Ho, C.M. (2021)
Social Psychological and Personality, 12(2) 237-247

Although models of political ideology traditionally focus on the motivations that separate conservatives and liberals, a growing body of research is directly exploring the cognitive factors that vary due to political ideology. Consistent with this emerging literature, the present research proposes that conservatives and liberals excel at tasks of distinct working memory processes (i.e., inhibition and updating, respectively). Consistent with this hypothesis, three studies demonstrate that conservatives are more likely to succeed at response inhibition and liberals are more likely to succeed at response updating. Moreover, this effect is rooted in different levels of cognitive flexibility and independent of respondents’ demographics, intelligence, religiosity, and motivation. Collectively, these findings offer an important perspective on the cognitive factors that delineate conservatism and liberalism, the role of cognitive flexibility in specific working memory processes, and the impact of political ideology on a multitude of behaviors linked to inhibition and updating (e.g., creativity, problem-solving, self-control).

Facilitating emotional regulation: The interactive impact of resource availability and reward processing

Roberts, M.R., Clarkson, J.J., Cummings, E.L.T., & Ragsdale, C.M.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Despite a wealth of knowledge on the importance of resource availability and reward processing for emotional regulation, surprisingly little is known about the extent to which these two mechanisms interact. Indeed, while research largely supports a positive association between reward processing and recovering from a negative emotional experience, the research does not make a clear prediction regarding the effect of resource availability on this relationship. In two experiments, we explored the extent to which resource availability impacts the efficacy of reward processing to reduce the aversive emotional experience of anxiety. We manipulated participants’ mental resource availability, induced anxiety, and varied exposure to either a rewarding or non-rewarding stimulus. The findings consistently demonstrate an interaction between resource availability and reward processing; specifically, the combination of high resource availability and reward processing facilitated the greatest levels of anxiety reduction. Moreover, this interaction was shown to amplify with the intensity of participants’ exposure to the reward stimulus. We discuss the practical contributions of these findings and their generative nature for further clarifying the processes underlying emotional regulation.

The malleable efficacy of willpower theories

Clarkson, J.J., Otto, A.S., Hirt, E.R., & Egan, P.M. (2016)
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(11), 1490-1504.

Emerging research documents the self-control consequences of individuals’ theories regarding the limited nature of willpower, such that unlimited theorists consistently demonstrate greater self-control than limited theorists. The purpose of the present research was to build upon prior work on self-validation and perceptions of mental fatigue to demonstrate when self-control is actually impaired by endorsing an unlimited theory and—conversely—enhanced by endorsing a limited theory. Four experiments show that fluency reinforces the documented effects of individuals’ willpower theories on self-control, while disfluency reverses the documented effects of individuals’ willpower theories on self-control. Moreover, these effects are driven by differential perceptions of mental fatigue—perceptions altered by individuals’ level of confidence in their willpower theory—and are bound by conditions that promote effortful thought. Collectively, these findings point to the malleable efficacy of willpower theories and the importance of belief confidence in dictating this malleability and in modulating subsequent self-control behavior.

Perceived mental fatigue and self- control.

Clarkson, J.J. Otto, A.S., Hassey, R.V., & Hirt, E.R. (2016)
In E.R. Hirt, J.J. Clarkson, & L. Jia (Eds.), Self-Regulation and Ego Control. San Diego, CA: Elselvier.

The purpose of this chapter is to outline the empirical work to date regarding the importance of individuals’ subjective perceptions of mental fatigue for self-control. We first review existing research on the causal link between perceptions of mental fatigue and self-control. Next, we discuss factors shown to impact or alter individuals’ perceptions of mental fatigue. We then present a meta-analysis to provide insight into the general impact of perceived mental fatigue on self-control. Finally, we speak to the implications of this research for the manner in which self-control is conceptualized within a limited resource model specifically as well as models of self-control more broadly.

Self-Regulation and Ego Control

E.R. Hirt, J.J. Clarkson, & L. Jia (Eds.) (2016)
San Diego, CA: Elselvier.

Does attitude certainty beget self-certainty?

Clarkson, J.J., Tormala, Z.L., DeSensi, V.D., & Wheeler, S.C. (2009)
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 436-439.

This research explores the possibility that changes in attitude certainty can affect general self-certainty and, thus, have consequences that extend beyond the attitude domain. Across two studies, attitude certainty is manipulated using repeated attitude expression and attitude consensus paradigms. The implications of these manipulations are tested for feelings of general self-uncertainty (Study 1) and global selfdoubt about one’s abilities (Study 2). In each study, it is demonstrated that participants feel greater selfcertainty under conditions of high rather than low attitude certainty, but only when they view aspects of the attitude as central to their self-concept.

When perception is more than reality: The effect of perceived versus actual resource depletion on self-regulatory behavior.

Clarkson, J.J., Hirt, E.R., Jia, L., & Alexander, M.B. (2010)
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 29-46.

Considerable research demonstrates that the depletion of self-regulatory resources impairs performance on subsequent tasks that demand these resources. The current research sought to assess the impact of perceived resource depletion on subsequent task performance at both high and low levels of actual depletion. The authors manipulated perceived resource depletion by having participants 1st complete a depleting or nondepleting task before being presented with feedback that did or did not provide a situational attribution for their internal state. Participants then persisted at a problem-solving task (Experiments 1–2), completed an attention-regulation task (Experiment 3), or responded to a persuasive message (Experiment 4). The findings consistently demonstrated that individuals who perceived themselves as less (vs. more) depleted, whether high or low in actual depletion, were more successful at subsequent self-regulation. Thus, perceived regulatory depletion can impact subsequent task performance—and this impact can be independent of one’s actual state of depletion.

The effect of regulatory depletion on attitude certainty

Wan, E.W., Rucker, D.D., Tormala, Z.L., & Clarkson, J.J. (2010)
Journal of Marketing Research, 47, 531-541.

his research explores how regulatory depletion affects consumers’ responses to advertising. Initial forays into this area suggest that the depletion of self-regulatory resources is irrelevant when advertisement arguments are strong or consumers are highly motivated to process. In contrast to these conclusions, the authors contend that depletion has important but previously hidden effects in such contexts. That is, although attitudes are equivalent in valence and extremity, consumers are more certain of their attitudes when they form them under conditions of depletion than nondepletion. The authors propose that this effect occurs because feeling depleted induces the perception of having engaged in thorough information processing. As a consequence of greater attitude certainty, depleted consumers’ attitudes exert greater influence on their purchase behavior. Three experiments, using different products and ad exposure times, confirm these hypotheses. Experiment 3 demonstrates the potential to vary consumers’ naive beliefs about the relationship between depletion and thoroughness of processing, and this variation moderates the effect of depletion on attitude certainty. The authors discuss the theoretical contributions and implications for marketing.

The impact of illusory fatigue on executive control: Do perceptions of depletion impair working memory capacity?

Clarkson, J.J., Hirt, E.R., Chapman, D.A., & Jia, L. (2011)
Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 229-238.

The human mind is quite adept at modifying and regulating thoughts, judgments, and behaviors. Recent research has demonstrated that depletion of self-regulatory resources can impair executive function through restriction of working memory capacity. The current work explored whether the mere perception of resource depletion (i.e., illusory fatigue) is sufficient to directly produce these deficits in executive control. To manipulate illusory fatigue, participants were exposed to a depleting or nondepleting task before being presented with false feedback about the effects of the initial task on their state of resource depletion. Participants then completed a well-established index of working memory capacity. Findings revealed that individuals provided with feedback that led to perceptions of low depletion exhibited greater working memory capacity. This effect was independent of individuals’ actual state of depletion and was furthermore mediated by their perceived level of depletion. Implications for spontaneous resource replenishment are discussed.

Revisiting the restorative effects of positive mood: An expectancy-based approach to self-control restoration.

Egan, P.M., Clarkson, J.J., & Hirt, E.R. (2015)
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 57, 87-99.

The present research explored the empirical relation between positive mood and self-control restoration. In line with recent work on the perceptual correlates of self-control exertion, we tested whether positive mood’s restorative effects could be partly attributable to expectancies of mental energy change. Results showed that positive mood elicited a general expectancy of mental energy restoration and that negative mood elicited a general expectancy of mental energy depletion. Furthermore, these expectancies were shown to alter perceptual and cognitive state in manners predictive of downstream self-control performance. Together, these results compliment emerging work on the importance of perceptual processes in the modulation of self-control performance, and warrant future work on the role of expectancies and subjective fatigue in self-regulatory pursuits.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall: The paradoxical effect of regulatory depletion on attitude change.

Petrocelli, J.V., Williams, S.A., & Clarkson, J.J. (2015)
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 58, 82-94.

The present research explores a new effect of regulatory resource depletion on persuasion by proposing that the experience of depletion can increase or decrease openness to attitude change by undermining perceived counterargument strength. Ironically, this openness is hypothesized to be strongest for individuals holding attitudes with high (versus low) certainty, as individuals should expect high certainty attitudes to be more resistant—an expectation the experience of depletion is hypothesized to violate. Supporting the hypotheses, three studies demonstrate that individuals expect high certainty attitudes to be stable (Study 1), the experience of resource depletion violates this expectancy and increases the openness to counterattack (Study 2), and this openness is driven by decreased perceptions of counterargument strength (Study 3). By augmenting (attenuating) the effect of argument quality for high (low) certainty attitudes, the experience of depletion on perceived counterargument performance offers insight into novel means by which resource depletion can influence persuasion.

The self-control consequences of political ideology.

Clarkson, J.J., Chambers, J.R., Hirt, E.R., Otto, A.S., Kardes, F.R., & Leone, C. (2015)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(27), 8250–8253.

Evidence from three studies reveals a critical difference in self-control as a function of political ideology. Specifically, greater endorsement of political conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with greater attention regulation and task persistence. Moreover, this relationship is shown to stem from varying beliefs in freewill; specifically, the association between political ideology and selfcontrol is mediated by differences in the extent to which belief in freewill is endorsed, is independent of task performance or motivation, and is reversed when freewill is perceived to impede (rather than enhance) self-control. Collectively, these findings offer insight into the self-control consequences of political ideology by detailing conditions under which conservatives and liberals are better suited to engage in self-control and outlining the role of freewill beliefs in determining these conditions.

Restoration effects following depletion: Adventures in the uncanny resilience of man.

Hirt, E.R., Clarkson, J.J., Egan, P.M., & Eyink, J.R. (2016)
In E.R. Hirt, J.J. Clarkson, & L. Jia (Eds.), Self-Regulation and Ego Control. San Diego, CA: Elselvier.

Past research on depletion has illustrated how prior exertion of self-control leads individuals to perform more poorly at subsequent self-control tasks.  However, a number of recent studies have illustrated cases in which certain manipulations (e.g., positive mood, power, self-affirmation, meditation, exposure to nature) can ameliorate the effects of prior depletion and restore individuals’ performance back to a level commensurate with non-depleted controls.  Most of these demonstrations posit their own separate mechanisms for these restoration effects.  In the present work, we present a model that attempts to account for the success of these diverse instances of restoration.  The model emphasizes the role of expectancies derived from lay beliefs regarding the mental energy changes associated with various conditions, which affect perceptions of mental fatigue and its consequences for cognitive and behavioral performance. We present evidence from two lines of work investigating specific examples of restoration (positive mood, power) that provide support for our model and then discuss current and future work aimed at integrating these effects within a broader frameworkof self-regulation..