Self-control depletion and exercise performance: mechanisms of the effect

Hunte, R., 2022. Self-control depletion and exercise performance: mechanisms of the effect. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

Raymon Hunte 2023.pdf - Published version

Download (2MB) | Preview


This thesis is presented as a collection of four studies in which the mechanisms underpinning the effects of prior self-control exertion on subsequent physical performance are examined. Considerable evidence has demonstrated that the initial exertion of self-control on one task impairs performance on a subsequent physical task, also requiring self-control. However, more sport specific performance tasks are required to improve the ecological validity of self-control exertion research. For example, no research to date has investigated the impact of self-control exertion on repeated running sprint task performance. Moreover, research into the mechanisms that underpin the effect is limited and inconsistent. Individual's perceptions of pain and motivation have been suggested as possible mechanisms, however, further research is required to establish these, and other, mechanisms explaining why self-control interferes with subsequent performance on a physical task. Building on this work, individuals' perceptions of boredom have also been suggested as a potential mechanism, however, boredom is yet to be empirically investigated. Finally, considering the negative effects of self-control exertion on subsequent physical performance, there is a requirement for intervention strategies. In particular, the potential for a goal priming intervention to attenuate the effects of prior self-control exertion on subsequent physical performance has not been investigated to date. The current thesis aims to address these limitations and extend the literature.

Chapter Two examined the effects of self-control exertion on subsequent physical performance, as well as the mechanisms underpinning the effect under a meta-analytical lens. The meta-analysis highlighted significant gaps in the literature, particularly regarding performance task type and a lack of research into the underpinning mechanisms. Therefore, Chapter Three, Four, and Five employed a sequential-task paradigm to address these gaps in the literature. Specifically, Chapter Three examined the potential effects of prior self-control exertion on subsequent repeated running sprint performance. Chapter Four investigated perceptions of boredom as a novel underpinning mechanism that may explain why self-control exertion affects subsequent physical performance. Finally, Chapter Five examined whether a goal priming intervention could attenuate any decrements in performance on a subsequent physical task due to initial self-control exertion.

Overall, the findings of this thesis support the notion that the prior exertion of self-control results in performance decrements during subsequent physical performance tasks. In addition, initial perceptions of pain, motivation, and self-efficacy are suitable underpinning mechanisms of the effect. More specifically, Chapter Two (meta-analysis) found that self-control exertion had a medium sized negative effect on subsequent physical performance (g = −0.55). In addition, a small increase in initial perceptions of pain (g = 0.18) and a medium sized reduction in self-efficacy (g = −0.48) following self-control exertion were revealed. However, performance task type and study design must be carefully considered as these moderators can influence results. Chapter Three found that prior self-control exertion does not influence subsequent repeated running sprint task performance (all p > 0.05). Furthermore, Chapter Four found a negative effect of self-control exertion on wall-sit task performance (p = 0.05). In addition, self-control exertion resulted in higher overall perceptions of pain (p = 0.02) and reduced overall (p = 0.01) and initial (p = 0.02) motivation. Perceptions of boredom did not seem to be an underpinning mechanism (p = 0.79); however, initial self-control tasks may increase boredom and should be controlled for. Finally, Chapter Five found that a goal priming intervention did not attenuate the effects of prior self-control exertion on a subsequent physical task (p = 0.28).

In summary, the current thesis has offered evidence for the negative impact of prior self-control exertion on subsequent physical performance, as well as the potential for self-efficacy and motivation to be underpinning mechanisms to explain the effect. However, findings may be due to physical task type. Future research should continue to investigate the decision-making processes required following the exertion of self-control, as these may influence the performance results observed during subsequent physical task performance.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Hunte, R.
Date: December 2022
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 21 Jun 2023 11:00
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2023 11:00

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View


Views per month over past year


Downloads per month over past year