ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (11): 1911-1925.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.01911

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Ego depletion impedes rational decision making: Mechanisms and boundary conditions

MA Yu1, XIAO Chenjie2, CHE Jingshang1, WANG Haixia3(), LI Aimei1()   

  1. 1Management School, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
    2Business School of Hunan First Normal University, Changsha 410205, China
    3School of Journalism &Communication, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China;
  • Received:2020-04-06 Online:2020-11-15 Published:2020-09-23
  • Contact: WANG Haixia,LI Aimei;


Ego depletion leads to preference for immediate interests and goals, which is likely to induce irrational decision making. Based on systematic literature reviews, ego depletion impedes rational decision making through two mechanisms. In regard to the attention mechanism, depleted individuals are more likely to be attracted by immediate rewards but ignore the importance of long-term benefit (i.e., failure of “focusing on the future”). In terms of the execution mechanism, depletion impairs individuals’ abilities of planning and executing (i.e., failure of “sticking to the future”). Moreover, two critical boundaries affect such processes: (1) individual characteristics, including susceptibility to resource depletion and internal moral restraint; (2) situational characteristics, including external provocation, social norms and decision costs. Future research should adopt eye tracking technology to extend the research in attention mechanism and explore other boundary conditions, which helps to nudge rational decision making.

Key words: ego depletion, decision making, rationality, attention mechanism, execution mechanism, long-term benefit

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