ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (9): 1175-1183.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.01175

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The self-control process model of altruistic behavior: The positive effect of moral emotions under the ego depletion

FEI Dingzhou; QIAN Donghai; HUANG Xuchen   

  1. (Philosophy School of Wuhan university, Wuhan 430072, China)
  • Received:2015-09-16 Published:2016-09-25 Online:2016-09-25
  • Contact: HUANG Xuchen, E-mail:


De Wall et al (2009) observed that helping others can be considered as a function of self-regulatory energy. It can be hypothesized that any factor affecting self-control is capable of having an impact on altruistic behavior. In the present paper, moral emotions are examined as one of these types of factors. We can anticipate that if a participants’ moral emotion is motivated even though they are in ego depletion, plus the regulation and moderation of action control, then the likelihood that they will help others is very great. In this study, three experiments were conducted. (1) The first experiment used dual-task paradigm to investigate participants’ performances in the dictator game task with exhausted self-control resources because of previous Stroop effect test. The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) measures participants’ affects and its Cronbach alpha coefficient was 0.872. (2) The second experiment investigated the moderation of action-control orientation between ego depletion and altruistic behavior. In this experiment the materials were the same as in the previous example, but also included a revised Chinese version of control action scale-decision sub scale with eleven items and a total of eleven points (action-orientation 5.5-11, state-orientation 0-5.5). The Cronbach alpha coefficient was 0.7 for this experiment. (3) The third experiment explored the compensation of moral emotions for ego depletion in altruistic behavior using the behavioral memory paradigm. For the first experiment, the result suggests that the depletion of self-control resource caused by the Stroop task to be effective and the average number of tokens which the high depletion group of participants assigned to others was less than in the low depletion group. (2) The results of the second experiment showed that the main effect of variable action control was significant and group main effect was also significant. The interaction of two main effects was significant: F (1,54) = 4.51, p = 0.038 < 0.05, η2 = 0.077. The fact that the interaction effect was significant indicates regulation effect. (3) The third experiment showed that under the condition of high depletion, participants with positive moral emotions can assign more tokens to others, while ones with negative moral emotions assigned fewer tokens than the group of participants with positive moral emotions, but more than the neutral emotional group. There were significant differences in the amounts of tokens in the groups, F (1, 61) = 7.84, p = 0.001 < 0.01. We performed a multiple comparison analysis and found that in the amount of the allocation, there was a significant difference (p = 0.29 < 0.05) for positive moral emotions and moral negative emotion group; there was a very significant difference (p < 0.01) for positive moral emotion and neutral emotion group. The negative moral emotion and neutral emotion groups did not show a significant difference (p = 0.102 > 0.05), but the negative moral emotion group gave others a higher average amount of tokens than the neutral emotion group. This study explored the effect of self control resources on altruistic behavior, and addresses the compensation and positive role of moral emotions under ego depletion. This paper showed that inducing moral emotions can achieve this objective. The study suggests that personality differences in action control orientation can contribute to the research into rules governing the self control process and the study provides a theoretical basis for better prediction of altruistic behavior.

Key words: self-control resource, altruistic behavior, ego depletion, moral emotions, action control